Fireworks confounding Legislature

Pennsylvania lawmakers still are trying to think of ways to undo the Legislature’s shortsightedness and narrow-mindedness when they passed a law in October 2017 to abandon what was then the commonwealth’s archaic, overly restrictive fireworks rules.

The effort to bring rules governing explosive and related colorful products such as Roman candles used primarily during national, state and community Independence Day celebrations wasn’t wrong in intent.

The problem was — and remains — that legislators and the governor failed to anticipate the law’s windows for problems and failed to implement certain needed restrictions while keeping the basic framework of the new law intact.

Long prior to Pennsylvania’s fireworks action, numerous other states already had abandoned their unnecessarily restrictive fireworks laws and addressed quickly the need for changes after their initial experiences with those measures. Not Pennsylvania.

Now, nearly two years after passing Pennsylvania’s law, lawmakers still are grappling with the issues that were capable of being resolved within weeks or months after the 2018 July 4 celebration.

But instead, new proposals still are being put forth on how to deal with ongoing concerns, now that the second Independence Day the current law has been in effect is past. A Mirror article last Sunday focused on three proposals:

— To prohibit consumer fireworks use between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., unless it is a holiday or use during some or all of those restricted hours is allowed by a municipal permit.

— To give municipalities authority to regulate and limit the use of fireworks.

— To increase criminal penalties for fireworks violations and provide beefed-up guidance to municipalities regarding reasonable fireworks controls.

Obviously, many state residents aren’t looking kindly on the newest efforts to update the 2017 law, fearing that the commonwealth is trying to return to long-outdated restrictions. However, those opponents to proposals in the works need to acknowledge the reason why lawmakers have found it necessary to revisit the issue.

The reason is that there has been too much irresponsible conduct since state residents were given the OK to use the full line of fireworks that comply with federal requirements tied to consumers.

Certain items remain illegal — such as M-80s, M-100s, cherry bombs and quarter- and half-sticks — but anyone is naive to think that such items have not reached consumers since the Legislature’s 2017 action.

People need to recall descriptions of Altoona’s 2018 Independence Day, such as the one in a Mirror report on April 11, describing some people’s conduct as having a “pyrotechnical fusillade.”

Even without the state’s tweaking of the 2017 law, some municipalities already have acted — commendably — to better control fireworks, including Altoona and Logan Township.

Without any certainty that the state will act in time for July 4, 2020, other communities that have experienced problems since the new law went into effect need to move forward with their intent to avoid a repeat of problems.

It must be acknowledged that the goal of expanding fireworks sales two years ago was not so much more fun for fireworks buyers but, instead, to generate tax revenue for state coffers and for fire companies and other emergency responders.

Those intents were OK but, unfortunately, many people have responded irresponsibly to the new rights granted them. Lawmakers must not still be talking about fireworks and associated safety-rules revisions a year from now.


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