Despite objections from firefighters and safety advocates, the Ohio Senate voted 21-7 on Tuesday in favor a bill that would allow adults to set off firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and other consumer fireworks 365 days a year.
Danial Peart, showroom operations director for Phantom Fireworks in Youngstown, said it’s time Ohio updated its fireworks laws that allow purchasing fireworks only if customers swear they won’t set them off in Ohio and will take them out of state within 48 hours.
“Every year we stand in our consumer fireworks facilities in the state … and they ask us the same question: ‘How can you sell to Ohio residents when they can’t use them?’ And we don’t have that answer,” Peart said. Currently, illegal possession or discharge of fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for first offenses. Senate Bill 386 eliminates what has long been called the ‘Liar’s Law’ and legalizes use by the general public of consumer grade fireworks.
Patricia Holsinger of South Point spoke out against the bill, telling lawmakers the horrifying story of how her elderly parents died in a house fire caused by an illegal firework that landed on their roof in July 2014.
“It was the worst night of my life,” she said. She called the bill “crazy because once those fireworks are lit they have no direction, you don’t know which path they’re going to take and it may be something enjoyable for your family but it may end up it someone else’s yard or on someone else’s roof that can’t fight the fire themselves.”
Also opposing the bill is Prevent Blindness, the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, the Ohio Ophthalmological Society, Ohio Fire Officials Association and pediatricians. State Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, agreed with opponents and said, “There is simply no safe way to discharge a firework.”
She noted that she is disappointed that State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers did not testify on the bill. State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, joined Jones in voting against the bill.
The legislation also extends a long-standing moratorium on licenses to manufacture and sell fireworks to 2018. Bruce Blom of the Ohio Pyrotechnic Arts Guild said he supports the bill but opposes the moratorium, which he says locks up the market for a state-approved oligarchy.
The bill, which would take effect in January 2016, now moves to the House for consideration.
Silencers Ok’d for hunters
The Ohio Senate voted 24-6 on Tuesday in favor of legalizing the use of noise suppressors – silencers – when hunting birds and game and making changes to the state’s concealed carry weapons law to reduce the required training hours and beef up the background check.
Doug Deeken of Ohioans for Concealed Carry said hunters must either use hearing protection or noise suppressors when hunting squirrels or other small birds or game. Allowing silencers will make it easier to hunt without wearing hearing protection, he said.
Ohioans for Concealed Carry and the Buckeye Firearms Association supported the changes the bill makes to the CCW law, which initially took effect 10 years ago. Training hours will drop to eight hours from 12 and still require two hours of range time and it will require a national background check for everyone seeking permits, rather than just a state background check for long-time Ohio residents. It also allows people who live out-of-state but work in Ohio to be eligible to apply for an Ohio CCW permit.
The bill also eliminates defining a machine gun as anything that fires 31 or more rounds without re-loading since Ohio is the only state that has such a definition, Deeken said.
The bill does not address ‘stand your ground’ or ‘duty to retreat’ provisions. Deeken said gun rights groups will seek those changes next year. “We will bring it up again. We will ask politely. We’ll give good solid testimony on why it’s necessary,” Deeken said. “We’re not giving up on that fight at all.”
In 2013, county sheriffs issued 145,342 CCW licenses – 96,927 new ones and 48,370 renewals. Renewals and new CCW permits in 2013 wer:
* 4,584 in Butler County,
* 913 in Champaign,
* 1,386 in Clark,
* 1,399 in Darke,
* 3,219 in Greene,
* 1,431 in Miami,
* 7,151 in Montgomery,
* 1,119 in Preble,
* 1,573 in Warren.
State Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, said CCW training requirements shouldn’t be watered down and noise suppressors on guns could put hikers and nearby residents at risk. “I don’t understand why a hunter needs a silencer to shoot Bambi or shoot Tweety bird.”
Tougher penalties possible for those who drive through flooded areas
Drivers who try to make it through high water and ignore warning signs could face fines up to $2,000 if a bill passed by the Ohio House Tuesday becomes law.
If a driver goes through water where a warning sign is posted, they face a ticket up to $150. The higher fine comes if they have to be rescued by first responders.
Also, unlike getting most tickets, the bill requires a ticketed driver to appear in court to answer the charge.
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