Despite push back from safety advocates, the Ohio House voted 77-12 on Wednesday in favor a bill to let consumers set off fireworks such as firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles on their own property 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Supporters of the bill note that it includes some guardrails: no one would be allowed to use fireworks while drinking or on drugs; dealers would be required to hand out a safety pamphlet and make safety glasses available.
State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, who is the primary sponsor of the bill, said that local jurisdictions would be able to set restrictions on when fireworks may be discharged of they may ban them all together — “if they want to be un-American about it,” he said.
The bill isn’t a done deal. It still requires approval by the Ohio Senate and signature by Gov. John Kasich. If it clears those hurdles, legal possession and use of fireworks would be allowed starting in July 2020 — provided state officials don’t agree on some other restrictions in the meantime.
Included in the bill is the creation of a study group to come up with recommendations. If lawmakers don’t adopt those recommendations by July 2020, the legalization would go forward.
Current law prohibits consumer use and possession of 1.4 grade fireworks. Though the goods may be purchased in Ohio, buyers are obligated to take them out of state within 48 hours. Around the Ohio Statehouse, this has been called the “Liar’s Law” for years because people shoot off fireworks in their neighborhoods and elsewhere, especially around 4th of July and New Year’s Eve.
Seitz said the current law operates on a “wink, wink, nod, nod, say-no-more” basis.
Opponents of legalization say there is no safe way to use firecrackers, bottle rockets and other consumer fireworks. They point to property damage and injury reports as evidence of why the prohibition should remain. Across the nation, the number of fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency rooms has fluctuated over the past 16 years from a high of 11,900 in 2015 and a low of 7,000 in 2008, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The numbers do not reflect injuries treated at urgent care centers or doctor offices.
State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, opposed the bill, saying the best way to enjoy fireworks is at community displays put on by experts.
State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, was the only local lawmaker to vote against the bill.
BY THE NUMBERS
2016 Fireworks Related Injuries in U.S.
• 4 fatalities
• 11,100 injuries treated in emergency rooms
• 61 percent of those injured were male, 39 percent female
• 31 percent of those injured were under age 15
• 1,300 injuries attributable to firecrackers, 900 to sparklers, 400 to bottle rockets
Source: Consumer Products Safety Commission