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Light a fire under lawmakers and ban fireworks | Editorial

Florida’s fireworks law is useless. But lawmakers should strengthen it, not ease it for holidays.
Fireworks light up the night over Boca Ciega Bay in Gulfport as seen from South Pasadena on July 4. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 8

Let’s start some real fireworks in Tallahassee. Don’t take the easy way out on fixing an absurd state law by legalizing fireworks for a handful of holidays. For the sake of public safety, lawmakers should pass legislation that would create a complete ban on consumer fireworks that explode or shoot into the sky.

It’s no secret that Florida’s fireworks law is a joke. While fireworks are technically banned, all consumers have to do is sign a form declaring they will use them to illuminate railroads or scare away birds. Even state lawmakers recognize the law is meaningless.

Yet instead of pursuing a straightforward ban, the Legislature is considering bills that would repeal the 78-year-old law and legalize fireworks for use on Memorial Day, July 4, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Apparently, Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving didn’t make the cut.

State laws and local ordinances regarding fireworks are all over the map. While the American Pyrotechnics Association says every state but Massachusetts allows some type of consumer fireworks, about 20 states have reasonable restrictions that generally limit sales to sparklers, fountains and the like. That’s where Florida lines up now except for the goofy exceptions.

There is no constitutional right to set off roman candles in residential neighborhoods on the Fourth of July. Powerful fireworks can cause serious injury. They can damage roofs and trigger fires if they land in the wrong place. They can scare dogs and other pets, and in too many communities too many holiday revelers are disrespectful of their neighbors and set off loud booms at all hours.

Florida should blow up its useless fireworks law. But consumers should be limited to sparklers and similar fireworks. Leave the roman candles and other powerful fireworks to the professionals.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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