Other Opinion: Lawmakers can bring the booms, the oohs, aahs

It's time to update the law to allow Minnesotans to buy and use aerial pyrotechnic fireworks.


Anyone who's ever been anywhere near an open window in Duluth on any evening around the Fourth of July knows: Minnesotans get as giddy as anybody over the soar, roar, and bang of big-time fireworks.

As unlikely as it may seem, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and other personal-use aerial pyrotechnics actually can’t legally be purchased in Minnesota. In our state, tax revenues from fireworks sales go pfft, like firecrackers failing to ignite. Thousands and thousands in sales-tax dollars go annually instead to our neighbors in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. Imagine all the good the revenue could do here with Minnesotans buying fireworks in abundance anyway able to do so without crossing a border.

“Everyone already enjoys them,” Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Brook Park, said in a statement after the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday heard his bill to finally legalize the sales of aerial and audible fireworks.

“My bill would simply ensure that revenue and jobs continue (to) stay within our state to benefit our citizens,” Rarick said. “Only ground-based sparkling fireworks, such as poppers or ground spinners, are currently legal. The Fourth of July would make it seem otherwise. We see large fireworks off of our docks and in our own backyards every summer. … Why should neighboring states gain revenue and jobs that should be filtering into our own economy?”

A bill similar to Rarick’s was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2012, among past legislative attempts to legalize the rockets red glare and bursts in the air.


Perhaps this can help change minds in 2020: Regulations, warnings, and education about the safe use of fireworks can accommodate their legalization. With fireworks outside of the law, recklessness and unsafe practices currently prevail and persist. Growing numbers of our friends and neighbors are being injured by bootleg boomers. In 2015, 89 emergency room visits in the weeks around July 4 were a result of fireworks use, according to the state fire marshal. That was only two more than five years earlier, but it was the most fireworks accidents resulting in ER visits in a decade. There were 58 in 2006.

“I contend that the safety concern already exists,” Rarick said in the statement distributed to media this week, including to the News Tribune Opinion page. “The statute that (now) makes aerial fireworks illegal is unenforceable during the busy summer season, (so) there would be little added risk (from legalization).”

Minnesotans are going to keep using and enjoying fireworks. Letting us buy them legally here can improve their safe use. And Minnesota's tax coffers can benefit, as well.

"It’s time to update the law,” Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said in a 2018 news story, his comment repeated in a News Tribune editorial.

Anything less from lawmakers this session would go pfft.

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