Thursday, January 4, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 4, 2001

Fireworks law requires united enforcement

The first thing that has to happen is for Gov. Ben Cayetano and Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris to get on the same page when it comes to fireworks regulation.

Cayetano says he will now propose a total ban on the private use of fireworks on Oahu. That is in reaction to the fireworks-related damage and possible death on New Year’s Eve.

Harris, meanwhile, says he isn’t ready for a total ban.

Therein lies a problem, because the focus of fireworks headaches is on Oahu. And the problem isn’t the law so much (there is already a ban on dangerous aerials), but rather enforcement.

Police say they have trouble enforcing a law that is unpopular with a large number — perhaps a majority — of the public.

In the chaos of a New Year’s Eve, they say, it isn’t easy to find and cite the source of any individual rocket or illegal firework.

(That raises a perplexing picture: When a person is lost at sea, a good way to be found is to send up a flare. But on land, we cannot get to the source of the very same thing.)

Cayetano and Harris (along with the Fire and Police Department) must sit down and come up with a law that is enforceable, practical and as respectful as possible of local culture and sentiment.

Part of the effort will simply be to conclude that fireworks can no longer be treated as a nuisance; in crowded, urban Honolulu, they are positively dangerous.

Large public aerial displays are one way to let some of the celebratory steam out. So too are limited permits for legitimate, organized cultural displays of firecrackers on Chinese New Years or other propitious occasions.

If the only solution is a complete ban on private use of fireworks, it must be statewide. We have already learned that island-to-island regulation of fireworks does not work; it simply contributes to an increase in illegal and dangerous traffic in these items between islands.

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