Spring is in the air, and pretty soon it’s going to be followed by bottle rockets, Roman Candles and all kinds of other things that go boom — usually in the dead of night.
It’s time, then, for Michigan residents to get on the phone or sit down at their computers and urge state lawmakers to finish undoing Michigan’s childish fireworks law.
After local officials in 2012 fielded thousands of complaints about late-night explosions and the reckless use of the much more powerful Consumer Grade Fireworks approved by the Michigan Legislature in 2011, lawmakers relented and tweaked the law a bit last year.
Local governments can impose some restrictions on the time of day fireworks can be set off and limit where they can be used. The problem is that most townships that impose such rules have no way to enforce them, and county sheriff’s departments don’t have the deputy power to do the job.
The best step would be for lawmakers to simply go back to the way things were before 2011. The Legislature — with virtually no input from anyone except fireworks industry lobbyists — agreed that year to allow the more powerful explosives. Before that, Michigan residents were limited to the tamest of pyrotechnics, like sparklers; smuggling in the big stuff from other states was a cottage industry, but much more easily controlled.
Going back to the good/bad old days doesn’t seem likely; That barn door has been opened, and there’s no closing it now.
But there are a couple easy fixes that could help bring sanity and a little peace and quiet back to Michigan.
• The more powerful fireworks can be set off the day before, the day of and the day after 10 national holidays. The craziness here is that the list of “holidays” includes Columbus Day and Christmas. Get real. Cut that list to four or maybe five holidays one can at least loosely associate with fireworks — perhaps Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and New Year’s Day.
• Tighten the time of day the big stuff can be used. Ban it between midnight and noon, for instance. No one needs Roman Candles for breakfast.
• Boost fines and penalties to make breaking the rules a real pain in the pocketbook.
• If lawmakers can’t bring themselves to be adults, allow locals to institute tougher laws; perhaps the threat of a big fine will help.
These are not, as some fireworks boosters claimed when the law was changed, “nanny state” rules. It is all about showing restraint and some respect for one’s neighbors. That’s not much to ask.
— TRAVERSE CITY RECORD-EAGLE