'Let the fireworks begin': Iowa legalizes fireworks

Massive box of fireworks, care of Dismal

Yesterday, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad ended the Hawkeye State’s 80-some-year old ban on consumer-grade fireworks. For a handful of weeks before the Fourth of July and New Year’s, Iowans will be able to buy bottle rockets, firecrackers, and all sorts of explosives in state.

Much like California, Iowa is allowing counties and cities to enact their own local bans if they prefer. Apparently, only the use of fireworks can be banned, not their sale — though Johnson County is mulling to do just that anyway. That should be interesting.

Needless to say, though, it’s going to be a noisy summer.

Iowa’s legalization of fireworks has been a long time coming. Though the effort to legalize was especially strong the last couple years, I think the ban was a target in the legislature for a while. Its futility was evident every Fourth of July, when the sound and smell of fireworks imported from neighboring states filled the air. It was no doubt annoying evidence that Iowans spent a fair amount of money just across the borders in Wisconsin and Missouri. (I can’t remember if fireworks are legal in Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.)

Though I’m not a fan of fireworks, I have no problem with their legalization. I agree that the ban had become futile (maybe it always was) and that it is better to allow Iowans to buy what they want in state instead of forcing them to take their money elsewhere. (I hope the same thinking eventually prevails with marijuana.) However, I also acknowledge the sad fact that there will be blood.

There always is, of course, but I am willing to bet that many more limbs, digits, and whatnot (perhaps, unfortunately, even a penis or two [shutter!]) will be lost around our nation’s birthday. (“Do it for America!” my friends used to joke.) Will Iowa’s ERs be flooded with towel-wrapped stumps this July 4? I don’t think so, but you never know. People can be total idiots, especially when you allow them to have small-scale explosives.

Regardless, the coming cacophony of high-pitched whistles and pops and pyrotechnic-tinged air will no doubt harken back to the Fourth of July’s I spent in SoCal. Forgive me if I’m not looking forward to it.

In California, the legality of fireworks varied by city; though they were banned in Huntington Beach, fireworks were legal in neighboring Costa Mesa. There, booths selling fireworks popped up in parking lots along Adams Avenue, a major street connecting the two cities, during the week leading to Independence Day. At the same time just down the street, across the Santa Ana River in Huntington Beach, an electronic message board began telling motorists entering HB that fireworks were illegal there. It didn’t do much.

The nights before and after July 4 were usually quite noisy. I don’t recall them being sleepless nights, and the activity usually died out after a certain point, but hearing fireworks for hours became quite annoying. However, HB sounded like a war zone the night of the Fourth. Party poppers, Roman candles, M-80s — holy cow, it was insane! The air was thick with the smell of fireworks.

Get ready, Iowa. The fireworks will begin.

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