1024px-Firework_Stand_by_the_highway
Iowans still have to go to Missouri or South Dakota to visit stores like this.
Photo credit: Skubasteve834 (CC-By-3.0)

(Watchdog.org) Jerri Andersen wasn’t impressed by the Fourth of July fireworks display at her local Hy-Vee in Urbandale.

“Of course, it’s not their fault,” she said.

And it isn’t. The supermarket was displaying the only types of fireworks people can buy or possess in Iowa without a special permit: sparklers and snakes.

All other consumer fireworks were banned in Iowa 76 years ago, following devastating fires in Spencer and Remen. The ban wouldn’t have prevented either fire. Both are believed to have been started by reckless use of sparklers.

Andersen, from Colorado where most fireworks are legal, eventually decided on a package of multicolored sparklers.

“It just doesn’t seem very much like the Fourth of July without some fireworks,” Andersen told Iowa Watchdog. “But I don’t have time to drive down to Missouri to buy anything good.”

Plenty of other Iowans have the time. Every summer Iowans flood into Missouri and South Dakota to shop at the fireworks stands and stores just over the state line.

Keeping some of that considerable fireworks money in the state was behind a bill to legalize fireworks by state Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel.

“I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents that they want to be able to legally use fireworks. And I believe our bill allowed for that in a responsible way,” Chapman said. “It would be good to keep that money at home. But what really comes down to for me is providing more freedom for our citizens.”

The bill, with wide bipartisan support, gave local fire marshals the power to ban the use of fireworks during droughts and other fire-prone conditions, Chapman said. Cities would have also been able to ban fireworks inside city limits.

Still, fire marshals and doctors’ groups would have none of it.

“A lot of their arguments simply weren’t backed up the data the Consumer Product Safety Commission collects on fireworks,” Chapman explained. “When Indiana legalized fireworks, injuries actually went down because people stopped using very dangerous homemade fireworks.”

Ben Deverell, who was shopping for sparklers at the Super Target in West Des Moines, knows about those do-it-yourself fireworks.

“When I was a teenager, some of my friends used to tape together a bunch of sparklers to make a sparkler bomb. You tape enough of them together, you get a big boom,” Deverell said. “It was pretty stupid. You can ban fireworks all you want, but you can’t stop stupid.”

Chapman intends to reintroduce the legislation during the next the session, in the hope of legalizing fireworks in time for next year’s Fourth of July celebrations.

“I’ve heard from a lot of lawmakers that their constituents really want this,” Chapman said. “so I believe it will pass.”

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