Injury doesn't bode well for fireworks law

Talk about blowing up in your face.

Three days after Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill making fireworks legal in Maine beginning in 2012, a boy was seriously injured by fireworks in coastal Georgetown.

"The father was lighting off the fireworks on a back porch when one seemingly misfired and exploded," according to a sheriff's department report, "sending pieces of the device at the 11-year-old and causing injury to his eye."

The boy was treated at the scene then transported to Maine Medical Center.

Over the same weekend, governors across the country were forbidding fireworks — even professional displays — due to dry conditions and the high risk of forest fires.

An inauspicious start for Maine's new fireworks law.

In February we called the legalization of fireworks one of the "more seriously misguided bills" before the Maine Legislature. Previous attempts to legalize them had fizzled, but the mood this year was entirely different.

There was, of course, the job-creation argument. There will be seasonal employment opportunities created when the fireworks shacks start appearing next summer on Maine highways, supporters said.

One New Hampshire fireworks dealer has already promised to open three stores in our state.

Then there was the questionable sales tax revenue the bill backers see the state earning from fireworks.

But some of the money spent on fireworks likely would have been spent on some other form of entertainment and amusement, offsetting any revenue increase.

What's more, any additional money will go toward enforcing fireworks regulations and putting out grass fires resulting from errant missiles.

There was also a fair amount of New Hampshire envy in this year's Legislature. If the Granite State has fireworks, we should too.

Less discussed was New Hampshire's role as the merchant of eye injuries, eager to sell fireworks to tourists passing through the state but forbidding their use there.

We're happy to sell them, but don't explode them here. How cynical is that?

Indeed, the fireworks that injured the boy Monday had been purchased in New Hampshire.

Then there was the general tea party/libertarian flavor of this year's Legislature. Attempts to protect people from themselves are simply out of favor at the moment.

So, by next summer, what was once illegal will be legal. According to the new law, that means anything causing "combustion, explosion, deflagration or detonation..." including "firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles, bombs, rockets, wheels, colored fires, fountains, mines, serpents and other fireworks of like construction."

The new law does, fortunately, allow Maine's communities to "adopt an ordinance to allow or prohibit the sale, use or possession of consumer fireworks within the municipality."

And we hope Maine's larger communities will take steps soon to adopt sensible restrictions. Houses and apartment buildings in urban areas are just too close together to allow their use.

Banning fireworks in high-density areas will make towns safer and reduce neighborhood conflicts.

As for the rest of Maine, we can only hope for the best.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

Glenn Aho's picture

It makes me sick the way

It makes me sick the way Liberals have used this story. One thing you never hear them mention is how the boy's father was setting of the fireworks in an unsafe manner. Most of the reports on this have been blown (pardon the pun) way out of proportion. The boy is fine and is now at home.

As for NH not allowing the use of fireworks in the state, this is completely untrue. I'm not sure where this idea came from but if people simply looked at the law they would see that NH does in fact allow the fireworks bought in the state to be used there.

Now to correct a few inaccuracies about the new fireworks law. In the editorial the writer claims that fireworks will be sold from roadside shacks. This is completely false. The law states, that fireworks can only be sold in stand alone existing structures, that have security, and fire suppression systems. Sales from roadside "Shacks" and tents will not be allowed.

I also want to point out that the writer of this editorial claims that missiles, and sky rockets will be legal next year. Again, this is untrue.
Under the new law; missiles, bottle/sky rockets, and other aerial devices with a launch height greater than 300 feet will still continue to be banned.

This editorial is full of erroneous and false information and the writer should've taken the time to perform more research instead of trying to further his/her agenda.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

"...There will be seasonal

"...There will be seasonal employment opportunities created when the fireworks shacks start appearing next summer on Maine highways, supporters said."

*********

"Shacks"? Excuse me? The new law says that fireworks sellers in Maine must have permanent, retail locations; just like any other store.

Nice use of damning spin, however. Kind of like the rest of the editorial.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Thrills and chills

For those folks here who are worried the government protects us too much I have good news. Not only will you get to wonder if your neighbor will legally get to send up a rocket that will burn down your house next year but the government has just announced that it will no longer test our food supply for e-coli. All this lack of protection will i'm sure make life so much more exciting.

Bob Woodbury's picture

A gentleman in North Dakota...

...was decapitated by fireworks.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

If we really

If we really wanted to protect people we would ban all motorized vehicles, walking around in a thunder storm, swimming, many jobs, and the list goes on forever. You cannot fix stupid of carelessness. Besides the father in this case was doing something illegal at the moment.

GARY SAVARD's picture

There will always be injuries

There will always be injuries caused by carelessness, and to ban anything that might cause injury if used carelessly in order to protect people from themselves tends to be a common reaction and an over simplification of the underlying problem, which is, you can't regulate ignorance or carelessness. ATVs and snowmobiles cause injuries and death when used improperly. Should they be banned also? They're about as necessary as fireworks, actually, so why not?

Jason Theriault's picture

freak accident

This was a freak accident. Using it as justification to ban fireworks is unfair.

Yes, fireworks are dangerous. So is alcohol. There are far more alcohol related deaths than firework related, even in states where fireworks are legal. Used responsibly, both are safe

PAUL MATTSON's picture

There is already a law on the

There is already a law on the books that should be enforced in this instance. It is called Endangering The Welfare of a Child.

RONALD RIML's picture

You brought it up, Paul

So which section of that 'Law' is applicable in this case?

Remember that the actions must meet the 'Elements of the Offense' as described in the Statute.

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