Our opinion: Fireworks issue sparks debate

The past several years have proven that the Pennsylvania General Assembly, when it relaxed restrictions on fireworks use, put too much faith in people’s willingness to act responsibly and sensibly amid their expanded recreational opportunity.

That does not mean everyone, but rather enough people who made it clear that keeping the relaxed restrictions in place without changes would be the wrong thing to do.

Most of the proposed changes being discussed under the state Capitol dome are unfortunate but at the same time necessary.

However, an issue hovering overhead is whether excess of the negative kind has been injected into what otherwise seems to offer the possibility of reasonable, sought-after results.

Those results being sought are a lowered likelihood for injury or worse, as well as for reductions in actual property damage or destruction plus threats of it.

In whatever ways beefed-up restrictions ultimately receive final legislative approval, the blame will rest with the individuals whose conduct strayed into the realm of dangerous to irresponsible rather than remaining planted in behavior worthy of classification as mature.

But just as some people have gone too far in their use of fireworks, perhaps the General Assembly has been trying to do likewise in its attempt to control what has become an often-unacceptable celebratory situation.

The state House passed House Bill 2157, which would add restrictions, last month, but the state Senate has chosen to go farther, including injecting possible jail time for some fireworks violators, when simply much stiffer fines probably could have the same deterrence effect.

A Capitolwire article noted that senators from both parties have voiced opposition to enacting a law that could be the basis for putting people behind bars for illegal use of fireworks.

The changes to the House bill approved by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, according to the article, “includes the stiffest penalties for repeat offenders and those who illegally use so-called ‘display fireworks,’ pyrotechnics powerful enough that they are normally used in public displays.”

However, some of the opposition to the proposed severity of sentences is built around general reluctance to criminalize activities intended to be celebratory.

“Somehow that doesn’t sit right with me,” is the way Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, summed up his thinking regarding the penalties subject. In response to Yaw and other senators, Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks, prime sponsor of HB 2157, said he would be willing to work to develop an amendment that would make the legislation more acceptable than what currently is on the table for lawmakers to turn thumbs up or down.

Meanwhile, there is another major point of opposition that could prove problematic in terms of final passage of the proposed legislation, if it gains enough support. Sen. Judy Schwank, R-Berks, has indicated unhappiness that the House bill in question does not go further toward reducing the use of fireworks.

In 2020, Schwank went so far as to introduce legislation that would have repealed the fireworks legalization law that has proved to be part of the foundation of the fireworks problems that exist at this time.

The bottom line is that the state Senate and House apparently have a lot of work to do before the fireworks issue is resolved in a way in which the Legislature and most of the commonwealth’s general public can agree.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today