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The Rules and Risks Of July 4 Fireworks

Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 12:21 PM

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(WCPN/Tony Ganzer)

In Ohio, you can buy fireworks but not set them off. There are novelty products you can try, like smoke items or snakes. Some experts want people to do away with the backyard fireworks and enjoy the professional displays.

Fourth of July celebrations, for many, involve some family, friends, and fireworks.  But in Ohio, you can only buy fireworks, not set them off in state.

“Every state’s different with fireworks. Here, you do have to sign a form saying you’re taking them out of state,” says John Sorgi of American Fireworks in Hudson, during a discussion on 90.3’s The Sound of Ideas.

“That’s for certain items in the showroom, we do have a wide variety of items that are legal here that are called safe and sane novelty items.  It just varies by state—in Michigan you can shoot whatever you want there, same with Pennsylvania.  You go into certain states like New York, you’re not even allowed to possess them.  So [in Ohio] that is a form you do have to sign.”

But dealers don’t check whether the customer is really taking the fireworks out of state.

“No, and basically everyone has to present a valid license when they come in, they put them in the system, they sign the form…that is the law,” says Sorgi.

If you are caught setting off fireworks illegally in Ohio, first time offenders are usually with a first-degree misdemeanor. If they plead guilty or are convicted, they can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, and also fined up to $1,000.

If convicted again, it becomes a felony with a possible prison term of one year.

Some think that it would be best if people forget about the backyard fireworks all together, as many child injuries from them happen indirectly.

“In […] studies we’re finding that about 25%--about a quarter--of the children are actually just by-standers. They’re simply watching the fireworks being set-off by, say, a parent, so they’re being rushed hospital emergency departments with these injuries and they weren’t even handling the firework at all,” says Dr. Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, and a pediatric expert at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“I wish common sense was enough, but unfortunately it’s not for backyard fireworks.  I would really recommend they enjoy a show done by professionals, and don’t use the backyard fireworks,” Smith says.

Even though most parents think less potent fireworks like sparklers are safe, Smith adds, they’re not.  He says they burn at more than a thousand degrees and can damage skin or clothing in a blink of an eye.

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Community/Human Interest, Health

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