A bill that would make it legal for adults to shoot off fireworks in Iowa has cleared a subcommittee in the Iowa Senate. Senator Wally Horn, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the general public wants it.
“I don’t know how many more fireworks will be set off if we pass this law than it is right now,” Horn said.
Senator Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, agreed.
“By and large my constituents are very supportive of legalization of displaying fireworks,” Chapman said.
But the move to legalize Roman candles, bottle rockets and other consumer firecrackers does have critics. Scott Anderson of Brandon, a past president of the Iowa Pyrotechnics Association, told senators fireworks should be handled by people who’ve been properly trained.
“It may seems strange that a pyrotechnics club is hestitant to endorse a consumer fireworks bill, but being aware of unintended consequences…we have questions,” he said. “Right now you’ve got to have a permit to shoot fireworks with in the state of Iowa…We don’t see what’s wrong with that.”
Sandra Jaques, a lobbyist for the Iowa Medical Society and the Iowa Academy of Ophthalmology, also spoke to the three-member senate subcommittee this afternoon.
“We appreciate that you’ve made it (legal) for 18 and over, but a lot of the injuries are actually sustained by bystanders and not by the people actually setting them off, so children would still be at risk,” Jaques said.
Novelty items like sparklers and snakes are legal to light in Iowa, but all other fireworks have been illegal to set off in the state of Iowa since 1938, although it’s not a crime to merely possess unexploded fireworks. John Pederson, a lobbyist for the Iowa Professional Firefighters Association, said the group is “leaning against” legalizing consumer fireworks.
“We’re concerned not only about fire safety but the medical responses that we also have in situations like this,” Pederson told lawmakers.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 8,700 Americans went to a hospital emergency room in 2012 for treatment of an injury caused by fireworks and 46 percent of those patients were under the age of 20. Senator Mark Chelgren’s proposal to dedicate any sales tax revenue from fireworks’ sales to a special fund for fire departments is not included in the bill that will be considered in the Senate State Government Committee Wednesday.