West Virginia Lawmakers Urged to Legalize Fireworks
A survey conducted at a biker bar and a church gathering gave state lawmakers a little light on how West Virginians feel about legalizing consumer fireworks.
A joint legislative committee took up the issue Monday during an interim meeting at the state capitol.
During this year’s regular session, a bill was introduced into the House that would legalize Class C or Common fireworks in West Virginia.
Legislators decided to get more input during the interim sessions and then possibly address the issue during the 2013 session.
Class C fireworks consist of firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, M-80s, cherry bombs and large, re-loadable shells.
You can buy those types of fireworks in West Virginia but it’s illegal to set them off.
What is considered legal in the state without a permit are sparklers, trick noisemakers, snakes and smoke bombs.
Clifford Rotz, a proponent of legalizing Class C fireworks here in West Virginia, says if those using them read the instructions and used them carefully, there is no reason why the state shouldn’t pass a law legalizing Common fireworks.
“I would propose an education campaign, encouraging people to be using what I consider to be a safe product, in even a safer fashion, by the use of eye protection, making sure you have fire hoses,” he said.
Rotz says a study conducted earlier this year asked 50 people in a biker bar and 50 people at a church gathering how they felt about legalizing Class C fireworks.
He says an overwhelming majority in both settings were in favor of the move.
Rotz says legalization could bring in big money to West Virginia.
“To West Virginia that would be 300 new jobs being created in West Virginia with passage of this law,” he said. “I’m estimating 900-thousand dollars in tax revenue. And if you include the sales tax, that makes it 1-point-5 million in annual tax revenue.“
But the Deputy Chief of the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office says hold your sparklers.
The agency is not in favor of legalizing Class C fireworks.
Anthony Currico testified in front of the joint committee and told members about an incident this past July 4th in Chester where illegal fireworks were being sold from a stand when several items accidentally were set alight.
He says it could have killed people inside the structure.
But luckily no one was injured.
“The state Fire Marshal’s Office stands vehemently opposed to the legalization of consumer fireworks, for the obvious reasons,“ said Currico.
As for the study involving the biker bar and church gathering, this is what Currico had to say, “Popular does not always add up to safe.“
The committee made no decision.
They will take up the issue again in interims before the start of the next session.