Lawmakers consider bill to legalize setting off fireworks in Ohio

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– Lighting up the night sky on the Fourth of July. But when it comes to these dazzling fireworks displays opponents, including a retired firefighter, said they believe the state of Ohio should leave it to the professionals.

“Just by handing someone a public safety pamphlet when they buy them, is not, certainly very passive and not enough education about how to handle an explosive device,” David Belcher said.

As the law stands now, Ohioans can legally buy fireworks in the state, but cannot set them off with offenders facing possible jail time and fines. But with the revised proposal, opponents said it will be open season.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Ohio Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee heard passionate testimonials from opponents during the fourth hearing on Senate Bill 113. It would allow Ohioans to possess and discharge bottle rockets, missiles and firecrackers on their own property or other’s with permission.

It would also:

  • Require sellers to give safety pamphlets to buyers.
  • Impose a 4 percent fee on top of sales taxes to fund firefighter training and fireworks regulation.
  • Allow counties, cities and townships to either ban or restrict times and dates of consumer usage on days including July 3, 4 and 5, New Year’s Eve, Juneteenth and Labor Day.

“About 20 percent of firework injuries are injuries to the eyes. Often, these are very devastating injuries that can lead to permanent loss of sight,” said Dr. John Liu, of MetroHealth, during the hearing.

Prevent Blindness Ohio is pushing to stop the bill from passage in the Senate. It said last year alone, more than 10,000 people were sent to the ER for fireworks-related injuries and 12 deaths, nearly half were innocent bystanders and many of them children.

Ohio Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) was just one of a handful of committee members who voted against the bill.

“We’ve been able to prevent a lot of these injuries. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why we want to change this, to go in the wrong direction,” Fedor said.

The Senate could vote on Senate Bill 113 as early as Wednesday.

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