West Virginia residents honor a long-standing tradition every year when the Fourth of July approaches. They journey into neighboring Ohio, head down Interstate 77 to the Carolinas or travel to Tennessee so they can buy the dazzling part of many Independence Day celebrations — big, bright exploding fireworks.
These staples of Fourth of July celebrations are currently illegal in West Virginia. Firecrackers and skyrockets are prohibited. People who crave fireworks for their celebrations have to circumvent the law by going across state lines to places where they can spend their money on fireworks. The only fireworks legally available to West Virginia and Virginia residents are fireworks fountains and sparklers, so people wanting more bang for their bucks head south. Money that could have been spent locally ends up elsewhere.
Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, submitted a bill during West Virginia’s last legislative session that would have allowed the state’s citizens to buy and use fireworks such as Roman candles, rockets, firecrackers, shells and cakes. Other legislators have introduced similar bills during past sessions, and Hall’s bill is just as good an idea. The bill did not pass this year, but Hall hopes to try again when the next session arrives.
West Virginia’s residents have been buying and using fireworks for years, and laws prohibiting their use have not been working. The sight and sound of exploding fireworks continues well after the Fourth of July.
Clifford Rotz, a retired chemical engineer who helped Hall draft the proposed legislation, has maintained that the use of fireworks by individuals has become increasingly safer over the years, and he maintains that national statistics bear this out.
There is no reason why responsible adults cannot be trusted with fireworks.
Fireworks should be legal in West Virginia if safety measures are taken. A fireworks safety fee could be used to help fund the state’s fire departments and pay for the State Fire Marshal Office’s enforcement efforts. If the taxes stay at a rate that makes West Virginia’s fireworks competitive with those sold in neighboring states, fireworks users will not feel that they must travel hundreds of miles from home for their supplies. This will mean more money staying in the state’s economy.
— Bluefield (West Virginia) Daily Telegraph