Fireworks law needs second look

Last year, the Michigan Legislature revamped the state’s law regulating fireworks. In the past, only “tame” fireworks such as sparkers and fountains were allowed for sale to the public in Michigan. Fireworks that made an audible “boom” or flew into the air were banned. That changed last year when the Legislature revamped the law to allow what are known as consumer fireworks – such as Roman candles and firecrackers.

Judging from the outcome in Delta County last summer, its time the state Legislature takes a second look at the fireworks law.

The new law limited the use of the more powerful fireworks to the day before, day of and day after 10 holidays designated by the state, including the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In Delta County, and many other areas of the state, the fallacy of this started too be realized in June. With more powerful fireworks available for sale locally, some residents began setting them off weeks before the Fourth of July. Contrary to the law, it didn’t stop for weeks afterwards.

Area law enforcement agencies took complaints about fireworks being set off at all hours of the day and night for weeks. For many residents, allowing more powerful and loud fireworks became nothing but an ongoing annoyance – especially when the neighbors decide to start fireworks show at 1 a.m. Who can blame them when a 72 hour period when fireworks can legally be set off turns into several weeks.

Local law enforcement is in a difficult spot. It’s incredibly hard to enforce these fireworks laws. When police are called to a fireworks complaint in a general area, it is difficult for the officer to determine exactly where fireworks are being set off and who is doing the deed. It’s difficult – at best – to determine who the culprit is. Law enforcement also has limited manpower which could be used to combat more serious crimes.

Last year, the Legislature indicated it would take another look at the fireworks law in 2013. Let’s hope that happens before we get too far into the summer months. Giving municipalities the authority to regulate fireworks within their boundaries might be a solution. With that, each community could determine its own fate based on the wishes of its citizens.

Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate a holiday – but having residents put up with bangs, booms and blasts for weeks is unacceptable. There needs to be a change.