Own The Night Like the 4th of July

July 4, 2015

As of July 1, Georgians can celebrate Independence Day with legit fireworks. I have to admit, I’m kind of excited – I spent my formative years in Texas, where people celebrate July 4th by eating brisket and doing stuff like this with firecrackers. I appreciate a DIY fireworks show, even if it’s just sparklers and Roman candles in either the cul-de-sac or the back pasture.

There are really only a few things that the new Georgia law requires:

  • The person lighting the fireworks must be at least 18 years old and have a valid photo ID.
  • You can’t light them within 100 yards of a gas station or a nuclear power plant.
  • You’re liable for any damage caused by your fireworks.
  • You can only shoot them off between 10 AM and midnight, unless it’s New Year’s Eve or July 4, in which case you can celebrate freedom until 2 AM.

And that’s pretty much it. Want to shoot them off at a state park, or in the middle of a crowd? You can do that – it’s totally legal – but park officials advise you to be careful. From WSB:

Park officials are concerned that the new law does not allow them the flexibility to put in place restrictions on where the fireworks can be set off.

HB 110 expressly prohibits any government or municipality from creating local laws or ordinances that prohibit the sale or use of the fireworks in any area.

“We are hoping to work with lawmakers to help regulate crowded situations or state and public lands,” said Dwayne Garriss, Georgia’s State Fire Marshal.

Unlike Texas, where cities and counties can regulate whether fireworks are allowed within their borders (for instance, fireworks are allowed in Harris County, which includes Houston, but not within the Houston city limits), counties and municipalities in Georgia have no say at all in determining whether they want to enact local ordinances that deal with fireworks. We local elected folks can handle Sunday alcohol sales, we can – for now – determine whether we want to ban plastic bags, but fireworks? That’s state-level stuff, kids.

Beyond the raised eyebrows of county and municipal officials and park rangers, many veterans are also concerned about our new fireworks liberties:

The group Military With PTSD has launched a sign campaign that allows veterans suffering from PTSD to ask their neighbors to please be courteous and remember that the loud noises and flashes of light can often trigger panic attacks. From Fox News:

The loud blasts and flickering lights that resemble gunfire and other battleground noises can trigger panic attacks and other stress responses linked to the illness, according to the Veterans Health Administration.

The campaign asks residents to inform their veteran neighbors about when and where they plan to set off fireworks so the former servicemen can prepare. It also aims to start a conversation between non-veterans and veterans, whose PTSD can cause feelings of isolation and a desire to avoid crowds.

“All they want is a heads-up,” Gourley said.

We owe so much of our continued freedom to our military, and as we are arguably failing our veterans in many ways, giving any combat veterans in our neighborhood a heads-up before we start blowing stuff up seems reasonable enough.

The idea that veterans are anti-fireworks is a misconception that has led to criticism of the campaign, she said.

On the Military with PTSD Facebook page, which has more than 160,000 followers, some people have called it a way to spoil patriotic festivities.

::sigh::

Closer to home, Representative Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), who co-sponsored HB 110 to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in Georgia, authored an op-ed in today’s AJC.

According to the American Pyrotechnic Association, revenues from consumer fireworks sales have seen unprecedented growth in recent years, totaling approximately $695 million in 2014. However, prior to HB 110, fireworks were being sold in four out of five of our neighboring states, while Georgia businesses were only allowed to sell sparklers. Now, fireworks revenue can remain in Georgia. This will give a boost to our economy, create new jobs as fireworks stores open, and allow Georgia business owners to take part in this profitable market.

Fireworks aren’t just unbridled fun followed by a whiff of sulphur. Fireworks are jobs!

Rep. Fleming is wise to remind us that as it is for Peter Parker, so it goes for the rest of us:

But with freedom comes the responsibility to make it work for the greater good and enjoyment of our nation. Freedom without personal responsibility, even for something small like fireworks, is a freedom likely soon lost.

Lost, perhaps, like a finger.

Be safe out there, respect your neighbors, be mindful of combat veterans in your community, wear shoes if you’re playing with sparklers (I speak from experience on this one), consider letting your legislator know if you want your local elected officials to be able to regulate fireworks in your community, for heaven’s sake, double-check which end is up on that Roman candle, and c’mon, let those colors burst.

Peach Pundit-GA Politics

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