AUGUSTA, Maine — A lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow adults to buy the firecrackers and aerial fireworks that many Mainers already hear in their neighborhoods on the Fourth of July.
Sen. Walter Gooley, R-Farmington, acknowledges that fireworks can cause injury and start forest fires, but he believes it would be better to make them legal and regulate the sale. Otherwise, people will continue to buy them elsewhere and bring them into Maine illegally.
“I know of many, many people, Mainers, that go over to New Hampshire and they spend in excess of $100,” he said. “It’s illegal, but it’s happening.”
Rep. William Browne, R-Vassalboro, one of nine co-sponsors, said, “If you live near a pond or lake, you’d never know there was a ban on them anyways.”
Gooley’s bill faces opposition from the Maine Department of Public Safety.
There have been 45 fires tied to fireworks since 2000 in Maine, said Maine Fire Marshal John Dean. Maine doesn’t track fireworks-related injuries, but thousands of injuries are reported each year across the nation.
“I have a very hard time justifying allowing something we know injures and causes property damage, just so somebody can make a profit,” he told the Kennebec Journal.
Fireworks laws vary across the country, with 39 states allowing some or all types of consumer fireworks, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island ban all fireworks. Another five, including Maine, Ohio and Vermont, allow sparklers and novelty items. Arizona allows only novelty items.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lisa Marrache, D-Waterville, said fireworks can be used responsibly.
Marrache, a physician whose husband also is a physician and works shifts in the emergency room, said they don’t see many fireworks injuries.
“While it’s dangerous, if used well and appropriately, it’s a means of enjoyment,” she said. “They are smuggling them in anyways. We might as well allow it and make it safe.”