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Fireworks bill shoots out of House

PHOENIX - For the third time in a decade, state lawmakers are moving to allow Arizonans to possess and use things that blow up and shoot up.

With the bare minimum 31 votes required for approval, the House agreed on Tuesday, March 8, to permit the purchase of actual fireworks. HB 2398 also will allow Arizonans to buy certain kinds of mortars that actually shoot rockets into the air.

That is a major departure from current law, which specifically prohibits anything that explodes or lifts off the ground. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Tuesday’s vote is part of what has been an ongoing move by the companies that make fireworks and the retailers who make money off their sale.

Up until 2006 pretty much anything with gunpower was illegal, at least as far as for entertainment.

That year legislators decided it was OK to have things like party poppers. These small devices involve pulling a string which ignites a small charge, discharging some confetti.

The same law legalized snap caps - the things you throw on the ground to make a popping sound - as well as toy smoke devices and glow worms.

It took another four years for lawmakers to be comfortable allowing the purchase and use of sparklers. At the same time, legislators agreed to legalize fountains that spray sparks and ground spinners.

Lobbyist Mike Williams, representing TNT Fireworks, emphasized to lawmakers at that time that none of what was being allowed actually explodes or shoots into the air.

HB 2398, sponsored by Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, changes that. And it’s being pushed by Williams.

But Williams, who still represents TNT, insisted he is representing only retailers this time around. He said they want to be able to respond to consumer demands.

And Williams told lawmakers that if they make just this latest change, that should satiate consumer demand - and keep folks from asking for more powerful items.

“We tend to find if you give them a small amount of fireworks or a lesser amount, people tend to be satisfied with those,” he said.

But Williams said none of this is a commitment he will never ask for expansion of what’s allowed in future years.

The law does preserve existing provisions which allow cities and counties to restrict use of fireworks to a period around July 4th and New Year’s Eve. According to statutes, “consumer fireworks may be prohibited during June 24 through July 6 and Dec. 24 through Jan. 3 of each year if a federal or state agency implements a stage one or higher fire restriction. Any prohibition during those dates is limited to only the dates when the stage one or greater fire restriction is in place.”

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