Bill that would close state fireworks loophole soars in Ohio Senate

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The overwhelming majority of states allow the discharge of consumer grade fireworks to some extent. Ohio, however, is not one of them and, instead, ranks only behind the state of Massachusetts in terms of strict fireworks regulations. A bill recently passed by the Ohio Senate would eliminate one of the state’s most overlooked loopholes by allowing consumers to legally purchase and ultimately use fireworks during major vacation periods.

Current Ohio fireworks regulations allow consumers to purchase and own consumer grade fireworks, but require consumers to ship them out of state within 48 hours. The so-called “liar’s law” would be repealed and replaced with a provision allowing consumers to light fireworks during major holiday periods, including New Year’s Day; Memorial Day weekend; July 3, 4 and 5; the tenth of June; Cinco de Mayo; and the Chinese New Year.

In addition, under Senate Bill 113, fireworks could be set off on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays before and after Labor Day weekend, New Year’s Eve and Diwali.

Danial Peart, Director of Government Affairs at Youngstown-based national fireworks retailer Ghost fireworks, said the proposal has dragged on lawmakers’ desks since 2014, but has recently gained momentum this legislative session.

“One of the rationalizations that keeps laws on the books for decades and decades is ‘this is how it always has been,'” said Peart. “In Ohio, we do not allow the use of any level of consumer fireworks. The big aerial fireworks? No. Firecrackers ? No. Even the fountains on the ground? No. Ohio does not allow their use.

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The loophole that allows retailers to sell fireworks while banning consumers from offloading them in the state has never made much sense, Peart said. Despite the obvious contradiction in state law, Phantom Fireworks has grown nationwide, offering stores and showrooms in 15 states and temporary retail locations in 17 states. Based in Youngstown, the company also supplies fireworks to other national chains in 47 states. The company employs more than 400 employees in Ohio.

Peart said the bill strikes a balance and a trade-off between public safety, animal and veterans’ interests as well as industry interests. Another major element of the legislation is to increase safety related to fireworks.

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“It’s a list of about 20 days [when fireworks would be permitted]”Peart said.” That’s still less than 10 percent of the total year that fireworks would be allowed. It also allows for local control, where towns and villages would be able to restrict fireworks. Beyond that, it really focuses on security. When something is illegal, as an expert in fireworks, I cannot tell you how to use them safely. I can’t tell you how to do something illegal. “

Under the legislation, fireworks retailers and wholesalers would be required to have safety glasses and gloves for free or for a nominal fee. In addition, retailers would also be required to provide point-of-purchase safety information to consumers.

The bill met public opposition from the Ohio Insurance Institute, the Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition, an animal rights organization as well as the Ohio branch of Prevent Blindness. Other opponents of the bill have voiced concerns about people living with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as pet owners. Animal rescue groups and shelters frequently see an influx of lost animals after the July 4 vacation.

By allowing fireworks only during certain holiday periods, Peart said residents will be able to prepare and mitigate these issues.

“That was the motivator behind defining the days when fireworks were legal. You can prepare for it. You know,” Peart said.

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According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of injuries per 100,000 pounds of fireworks imported into the country has declined significantly since the late 1990s and early 2000s, despite the fact that the total weight of fireworks d imported fireworks more than doubled. In 2000, there were 7.5 fireworks-related injuries per 100,000 pounds imported, representing an estimated 11,000 injuries out of 146 million pounds of imported fireworks.

In 2019, which is the most recent data available, there were approximately 10,000 injuries out of 255 million pounds of imported fireworks, which is only 3.9 injuries per 100,000 pounds of imported fireworks. . Over the past two decades, the estimated number of injuries from fireworks has remained largely constant despite the importation of more fireworks.

Ohio’s western neighbor, Indiana, passed a state law amendment similar to what Ohio lawmakers are considering in 2006. According to the Injury and Injury Prevention Division of the Indiana Department of Health, the number of fireworks-related injuries fell after the law was changed in 2006, granting consumers of fireworks the ability to legally unload them; and fireworks retailers the ability to provide safety information. . In 2012, there were only 83 fireworks related injuries. The number of fireworks-related injuries rose to 238 in 2017 – last year’s data was available – but it still ranked behind the number of injuries in years prior to the change in law. State.

“It is the educational component that has a profound impact on fireworks related injuries and more specifically on reducing fireworks related injuries,” said Peart. “We can’t tell people how to use something illegal.”

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