The fear of fireworks is causing local municipalities to maintain illegality in the actual use of the devices. Starting next month, fireworks can legally be sold in Clinton and Camanche. But if you decide to legally purchase the products, don't expect to actually use them.
If you do, you'll be breaking the law.
That shouldn't be the case and we disagree with the continued ordinance making the usage of fireworks as illegal.
Local government officials are hiding behind the speed at which the legislation was passed as a guise for keeping fireworks illegal. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed the fireworks legislation earlier this month, and sales can begin as soon as June 1.
That is a rather fast turnaround. Even the Iowa Legislature passed the bill in late April, making this appear to be a rather quick transition.
However, that doesn't tell the entire story. It's not like this discussion popped up out of nowhere this year. This has been an ongoing topic for years, with the legislation continually creeping closer to passage. Did our local government officials miss those regular news stories and discussions happening on a yearly basis for at least the last three years, or did they just kick the can down the road and ignore their duty in planning for possible changes in Iowa's approach to fireworks?
With better planning, our local municipalities should have been prepared for the new rules. So that should delegitimize the excuse that this happened too quickly, especially when putting forth an ordinance still limiting the use of fireworks. The sale of fireworks does create some confusion on regulation and making sure the correct fireworks are sold. We understand that trepidation and realize the burden that could create for our local fire department.
However, we don't back the notion that the city's caught off guard with the legality of fireworks. The sounds of fireworks are common in Clinton, regardless of what the law states. Relaxing those restrictions would not only eliminate the mass confusion created by continuing this ordinance; it also would allow our police officers to spend time fighting real crime, instead of checking in on fireworks usage.
When it comes to using fireworks, it's already been shown time and time again, Iowa residents support making fireworks legal. According to a Des Moines Register poll, 65 percent of respondents earlier this year supported making fireworks legal in the state of Iowa. That was the fourth consecutive year that a majority of Iowans have supported a lift on the ban.
So the residents support it and this didn't happen overnight, so why continue with the ban? Could it be a nuisance issue? Let's go ahead and ignore the fact that fireworks are routinely used during this time of year despite being illegal. That still doesn't answer the city's lack of care regarding nuisance issues by fireworks through special permits offered throughout the year for events, including multiple fireworks shows in the summer by the Clinton LumberKings.
If it's not those items, it must reside with safety. If we truly care about firework safety, that would mean we've been ignoring the main culprit for fireworks-related injuries for years — the sparkler. Sparklers have long been legal in Iowa, but yet they account for the most injuries nationwide in fireworks incidents. And despite some states' attempts to make fireworks illegal, it doesn't stop hospitalizations or even deaths with fireworks.
People who are not very smart about it sometimes use fireworks. That will happen until the end of time, regardless of what the law states. The added attention brought by this legislation could create a better public approach to safety. Most people already know about the danger of blowing up explosives. But something tells us that many don't realize the problems associated with sparklers and other "safer" fireworks. This offers an opportunity to get out from behind the veil of "fireworks are illegal, don't use them," (which once again, hasn't worked) to a more viable message of alerting parents and children about how to properly use the devices.
Local municipalities are basing their decisions on the fear of the unknown. That's sad, because we already know what June and July sound like with regular fireworks celebrations from backyards and ballparks. At some point, maybe those elected officials will hear the same tune.