While you may have missed the Michigan Firework Safety Act passed late last year, you may have noticed more fireworks tents popping up this summer than usual. With the Fourth of July upon us, more and more retailers are taking advantage of Michigan’s new law permitting the sale of previously illegal fireworks.
Since Jan. 1, 2012, Michigan retailers have been able to sell airborne fireworks, such as Roman candles, bottle rockets and aerial cakes, to consumers over the age of 18. These fireworks can be used anytime on the day of, the day before and the day after a national holiday. Local authorities cannot control how the fireworks are used, as long as they are lit on private property by individuals not under the influence of alcohol. Fireworks vendors may now remain open all year.
Some public officials and doctors have expressed concern that the relaxed regulations will result in more injuries. Despite some safety concerns, Michigan lawmakers were right to relax the state’s rigid firework regulations. One legislator who backed the bill has addressed such concerns by noting that Michigan has “some of the most stringent, if not the most stringent, safety requirements in the United States.” Clinton County Sheriff Wayne Kangas also points out that people have been using these types of fireworks for years anyway, despite their illegal status. Realizing that enforcement wasn’t strict, many residents merely bought their fireworks in surrounding states and transported them back to Michigan. As a result, Michigan businesses lost an estimated $8 million to $12 million in sales annually.
Supporters of the law point out that Michigan therefore stands to benefit from the new regulations. Not only do local businesses gain millions of dollars in firework sales that would otherwise go to Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, but state government stands to profit as well. In order to sell fireworks in Michigan, retailers must purchase an annual license costing $1,000 for permanent locations and $600 for temporary locations. In addition to Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax, state law requires a 6 percent safety fee to help finance the Bureau of Fire Services.
According to preliminary polls and interviews, public response to the change has been largely positive, with many people expressing relief that they no longer have to drive out of the state to buy their favorite fireworks. While some residents are worried about noisy disruptions at night, Michigan’s new law permits local officials to limit how late in the evening people can use fireworks outside of the days surrounding national holidays. Many communities around the state are creating such ordinances in order to prevent late-night complaints.
Michigan lawmakers are justified in re-examining the legitimacy of any law that prohibits the use of relatively harmless products. As a traditional American pastime that can be practiced safely and responsibly, fireworks should not be held to such strict limitations. This gain in freedom, as shown with a flood of fireworks tents, reminds us why we celebrate at all this Fourth of July.