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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Statewide ban only way to protect public

Hawai'i needs to ban fireworks.

It's an emotional issue but it's also a simple one. People are getting hurt, and it's within the power of state government to protect them.

Usually lawmakers give the fireworks issue some lip service and bury the bills as quickly as possible. This year, the outcry over illegal, months-long fireworks barrages has strengthened, enough that a proposed ban on home use has more momentum behind it.

Two bills are moving. The Senate Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee has set a decision on one of them for 1:25 p.m. today in the state Capitol's conference room 229.

That measure, Senate Bill 2365, is the more potent of the two because it would impose a statewide ban on all consumer fireworks except for cultural and religious purposes, and those uses would require a county permit. The bill has the support of police and fire officials who contend with the chaos on New Year's Eve and, to a lesser extent, the Fourth of July.

Law enforcement officials seem to be hedging their bets by also supporting the weaker measure, House Bill 2068. This bill, which has passed the House Public Safety Committee, would give each county the option of getting tougher than the status quo, which bans only noncommercial use of aerial fireworks.

The problem is that if fireworks are allowed for sale anywhere in the state, they'll find their way to a county that bans them. Eliminating smuggling is impossible, but only a statewide ban will reduce the volume sufficiently to make enforcement more than the farce it is now.

Fireworks are fun, but it's time to grow up.

Legislators should step up, take a vote for public safety and health, and vote enthusiastically for a total ban.