Fireworks law tramples rights

Guest Editorial
Suddenly, state Rep. Harold Haugh (D-Roseville) is worried about fireworks.

Imagine that.

Haugh is the guy who pushed and pushed over the past decade to allow big-time consumer fireworks to be sold in Michigan, despite warnings from police, local governments, health professionals and others that it was a bad idea.

When the law finally passed last year, all Haugh could talk about — perhaps the only talking point provided by the pyrotechnic industry, which of course backed the new law — were the economic benefits Michigan would enjoy. What a joke.

Now that the Fourth of July has come and gone, and Haugh has gotten an earful from across the state, he thinks maybe it’s time to rethink his foolishness.

“This was much larger than anyone anticipated, including myself,” he said of the law. No, not “anyone.” Just the adults out there Haugh and his fellow Michigan lawmakers refused to heed.

Haugh said the law was intended to bring a new revenue stream and jobs into the state. Three hundred to 600 jobs were created, he said. What he didn’t say is that the vast majority of those jobs — and even 600 is a paltry number — were as temporary as the fireworks stands that popped up all over the place and paid peanuts.

Haugh now wants to create a bipartisan committee to review the legislation; his explanation? “What I want to focus on is a review from a consumer usage standpoint and enforcement local municipalities put in place.” Whatever that means.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts was a lot more straightforward and rightly called the law “an unmitigated disaster.”

“Rather than fix a bad law, they need to nix it,” he said.

He’s right.

Haugh’s bill prevented local communities from restricting the use of the new fireworks on the day before, the day of and the day after federal holidays, such as the Fourth of July. The reality, however, is that even allowing local restrictions will pose a costly enforcement burden on the community but do little to stem the barrage of fireworks, particularly late at night. Noise ordinances are notoriously difficult to enforce; by the time police arrive, the perpetrators are usually long gone, and there’s often no way to pin down a source.

Trying to restrict the use of legal fireworks will simply not work. This is bad law, and it needs to go.

Lawmakers who said the old laws were an example of the “nanny state” need to think of all their constituents who didn’t buy or set off bigger fireworks just because they could. Some people, whatever their age, need a nanny after all.