The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 4, 2014

Perhaps it's time to loosen Iowa's fireworks ban

Sioux City Journal March 2
The Clinton Herald

---- — Legalization of fireworks in Iowa is an issue on which we see both sides.

On the one hand, we appreciate the desire by some Iowans to celebrate the Fourth of July with something more than sparklers and snakes, and we get the financial attraction of capturing part of a business Iowa loses to other states, such as Nebraska and South Dakota, each year.

On the other hand, we recognize the dangers of fireworks, and we respect the wishes of residents — particularly those who live in urban areas like this one — who don’t want the noise and mess associated with them in their neighborhoods.

We broach this subject because the Iowa Legislature is discussing the possibility of ending Iowa’s ban on fireworks, which dates back nearly 80 years.

In the past, we have expressed support for revisiting the ban. Today, we restate our support, with these qualifications:

1) As this debate proceeds, we encourage lawmakers to involve and take input from police, sheriff’s and fire departments who would be responsible for enforcement of any law the Legislature passes.

2) Minors should be prohibited from purchasing fireworks.

3) Use of fireworks should be confined to a specific, limited, reasonable number of days either side of Independence Day. Fines for violation should be stiff, to provide a deterrent.

4) Do not embrace a sky-is-the-limit approach to what is sold. Establish reasonable boundaries. We don’t need our communities turning into war zones over the Fourth.

5) Give local governments the power to restrict sales and use of fireworks when public safety might be threatened (for example, during times of drought).

Ours is not a go-to-the-mat position on legalization of fireworks. Iowa won’t be a lesser state if it doesn’t end its ban.

Still, recognition of the existing landscape suggests this is something at least worth talking about.

Illegally, many, many people shoot off fireworks, purchased in other states, in Iowa. That’s a fact. From a practical standpoint, in other words, the ban isn’t terribly effective.

So, perhaps it’s time to loosen the ban and to regulate and produce profit from the industry within our state. That seems to work rather well for our neighbors in Nebraska and South Dakota.

We have to believe it’s possible, within the proper framework, to open more fireworks to the enjoyment of Iowans, in Iowa, in a way acceptable to and respectful of all residents.