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Bill would allow explosive fireworks in state’s largest counties

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Want to light up the sky on the Fourth of July?

Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, has introduced legislation to let you do that – but only if you live in Pima or Maricopa county.

Arizona law has since 2009 allowed things like sparklers, fountains, smoke devices and illuminated torches. That approval came only after industry lobbyists, responding to concerns about safety and fires, assured lawmakers that anything that explodes or shoots into the air would remain illegal.

SB 1667 would change that.

It would specifically allow the sale of what the industry calls “multiple tube aerial devices.”

David Gowan

David Gowan

Think about a box, around the size of a car battery, with anywhere from nine to 15 tubes. You put it on the ground, light the fuse and, one by one, a rocket shoots about 100 feet into the air and explodes.

Gowan said a look around any community around Independence Day, New Year’s Day or other celebration event proves that these kind of devices already are in common use. He said Arizonans are bringing them back from New Mexico, where fireworks dealers set up shop along the border.

“So we’re just missing the money,” he said.

Gowan brushed aside the fact that anyone who uses those devices now can be arrested.

“I don’t see many people in jail for shooting those off,” he said. “It’s a fact they’re not doing that.”

Mike Williams, who lobbies for TNT Fireworks, which crafted the legislation, said the measure does not legalize other types of aerial devices that he said can be more dangerous.

Part of what makes these “safer,” he said, is that the device remains on the ground where it shoots straight up. He said that’s quite different from hand-held Roman candles and reloadable mortars which can tip over and send an explosive rocket in an unintended direction.

And Gowan dismissed concerns that having an explosive that is airborne creates a fire hazard.

“You know, New Mexico is full blown,” he said, with that state allowing all sorts of explosive and aerial devices. “And you don’t see all those hazards over there.”

Still, Gowan agreed to limit the availability of these new items to the state’s two largest counties, saying that the metro areas were the first to allow the legal sale of fireworks. He said rural counties have been given “some leeway” in deciding what is appropriate.

“It just seemed like a logical area to start,” he said.

Gowan has at least an indirect financial interest in the availability of more legal fireworks as he operates one of those pop-up sales tents in the Chandler area around the legal sales days. But Gowan said that Arizona has a “citizen Legislature” where lawmakers are expected to have outside employment and are expected to bring their outside knowledge to the Capitol.

Nothing in the legislation would change the days when Arizonans can purchase and use the kind of fireworks that are legal. Those include Independence Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Cinco do Mayo and the festival of Diwali which is celebrated among some who have Asian Indian roots.

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