As laws go, Florida’s prohibition against fireworks is a real dud. Before, during and after state-sanctioned displays Thursday night, area explosives enthusiasts were lighting up area skies with personal pyrotechnics despite the absence of any agricultural menaces such devices are permitted to shoo away.
We’re OK with the displays, but it’s long past time for the Florida Legislature to act on its literally loopy fireworks statute. That law — F.S. Ch. 791 — bans the use or sale of “any article prepared for the purpose of producing a visible or audible effect by combustion, explosion, deflagration, or detonation.” The law exempts items such as sparklers, snakes, party poppers, smoke machines, snappers and other novelty items.
The loophole in the law that produces such prodigious booms and bursts on and around the 4th of July — and just about any occasion nowadays, it seems — is the exemption allowing fireworks for “frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.” For a state of city dwellers and suburbanites, we have an awful lot of farmers and aquaculturists around here.
In 2007, it looked like the state Legislature was prepared to address the silliness. It created the Consumer Fireworks Task Force that was charged with recommending changes that would legalize certain fireworks and strengthen enforcement of those that would remain illegal. The recommendations arrived at the Capitol in 2008 and fizzled. Since then, fireworks use has proliferated. Little to no effort is made by local law enforcement to enforce the law, which is a good thing, we think, given how uneven and arbitrary such enforcement would be.
We are a state of laws. Looking the other way is no way to engender respect for public order. The Legislature should tweak the statute to allow personal fireworks — like 42 other states — and put an end to this charade.