Editorial: Safety must not go up in smoke. Extinguishing fireworks bill was the right move

Backyard fireworks can come with avoidable consequences.

That’s why we are pleased that Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday vetoed legislation that would have made it legal for consumers to discharge them in this state.

The Fourth of July death of Blue Jackets’ goalie Matiss Kivlenieks was a tragic reminder that fireworks are not toys.

Kivlenieks’ death was sudden, tragic and painful. An errant fireworks mortar shell hit the 24-year-old in the chest as he celebrated Independence Day in a hot tub in Novi, Michigan, 28 miles northwest of Detroit.

Kivlenieks suffered extensive external injuries and fatal wounds to his heart and lungs.

The memorial to Matiss Kivlenieks at Nationwide Arena now includes a poster with a message from goalie Elvis Merzlikins encouraging fans to smile.

The nine-shot firework that killed him was legal in Michigan, and the person who lit it followed that state’s laws, police have said.

Discharging that very same firework would have been legal here if DeWine hadn’t blocked Senate Bill 113.

The same could be said about those that exploded from a U-Haul truck that burned in Toledo on Sunday evening. Four people were hurt during that chaos, which was caught on video.

Long-lobbied-for, the fireworks bill would have made it legal to shoot off fireworks on holidays in eight out of 12 months:

New Year’s Day in January

Chinese New Year in February

Cinco de Mayo in May

Memorial Day weekend in May

Juneteenth in June

July 3, 4, and 5 and the weekends preceding and following those dates

Labor Day weekend in September

Diwali (a festival of lights celebrated in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism) in November

New Year’s Eve in December

We will give the bill’s proponents one thing: Ohio’s current fireworks law is pretty flimsy and makes a liar and potential criminal out of nearly everyone who buys them here.

It allows Ohioans to purchase fireworks in the state but says they cannot shoot them off within the Buckeye State’s borders.

They are allowed to be discharged once across state lines, but everyone knows what really happens. People fire them off in the middle of streets or in backyards here in Ohio.

Lawmakers could look at ways to relax some restrictions by using safety guidelines, but simply requiring sellers to give safety pamphlets to buyers, as the rejected bill required, would have been insufficient and would have led to more injuries in Ohio.

Public safety, and not appeasing the fireworks makers and sellers, should be the priority. Kudos to DeWine for seeing that more-specific language is needed to ensure Ohioans are kept safe.

The vetoed bill, if passed, would have given local governments authority to restrict the dates and times that residents can discharge fireworks, or ban their discharge altogether. A dangerous seed would have been planted regardless of actions taken by municipalities.

Making something legal is the wink that gives the impression that it is safe. That’s something that those who have treated injured eyes, hands and faces can tell you does not apply to fireworks.

Fireworks were involved in about 10,000 of the injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2019, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Between March and September 2020, fireworks injuries increased by 56%, to 15,600.

The safety commission estimates that there were 3,100 injuries from June 21, 2020, to July 21, 2020.

About 2,000 of the injuries were burns, 400 were fractures or sprains, 200 were contusions or lacerations and 600 were other diagnoses.

The increase is partly attributed to the fact that more people used fireworks at home amid the pandemic.

This was very apparent to city dwellers bombarded last year by the bursts and blasts from neighbors’ amateur fireworks shows.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 19,500 fires were started by fireworks in 2018, resulting in $105 million in property damage.

Fireworks can be annoying and traumatizing to pets and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical or mental issues.

But there are more serious reasons DeWine was right to use his veto power.

Although rare, Kivlenieks’ tragic case reminds us that fireworks can be deadly.

No matter how much fun they are, fireworks are not child’s play and should be left to the professionals.

— Columbus Dispatch, July 9