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Legislation would allow Virginians to sell and set off fireworks

RICHMOND—Sen. Richard Stuart knows you do it.

You drive, many of you, down to South Carolina, sometime before the Fourth of July. You load up on the big fireworks that are legal there and illegal here, and you bring them home for clandestine—well, as clandestine as can be expected with things that explode loudly—celebrations. And you hope the cops don’t track them back to you.

Stuart is tired of the subterfuge. So he’s proposing legislation that would make it legal for Virginians to set off fireworks.

Sen. Tom Garrett is tired of the lies, too. But he’d take it a step further—he’d like to let Virginians sell fireworks, not just set them off. He thinks it could be a job-creator.

“Everybody’s breaking the law,” said Stuart, R–Stafford. “Everybody does it. I think we need to change it.”

Current Virginia law allows some consumer fireworks: “Permissible fireworks” are specifically named as sparklers, fountains, pharaoh’s serpents, pinwheels and whirligigs. (Yes, the term “whirligig” is actually in the state code.)

To the code section listing “permissible fireworks,” Stuart’s bill would add any other “small fireworks device” as defined in certain sections of federal standards. His addition would allow “whistling devices, ground devices containing 50 milligrams or less of explosive materials, and aerial devices containing 130 milligrams or less of explosive materials.”

Garrett’s bill goes further, and touches on a lot of different code sections. It creates definitions of consumer fireworks versus “display fireworks”—the kind professionals use. And then it allows use of consumer fireworks on private property unless localities have an ordinance banning them.

Garrett, R–Louisa, says his bill will also let localities enact ordinances allowing the sale of fireworks, which he thinks would create jobs and raise tax revenue.

“Localities along the interstate would probably do it,” Garrett said, adding that more-rural areas might choose not to.

Garrett said the state firefighters’ association helped write his bill, so he hopes it has a chance of success.

Both bills have been sent to the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

 

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