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Keep Illinois' ban on fireworks sales

Daily Herald

Wednesday, July 11, 2018  |  Editorial  |  Editorial Board

Are Illinois residents missing out on Fourth of July fun because of the state's 76-year-old ban on most fireworks? We say no. Most people love watching professional fireworks shows and the suburbs last week had displays just about every night.

Those community events bring people together, make for family memories and help to cement the patriotic feel of the holiday.

But that's where it should stop. We aren't fans of the backyard fireworks displays that can get out of control, either through injuries, fire or just plain noise.

Yes, it may be fortunate for the businesses in states that encircle Illinois' borders when they sell to our residents, but there doesn't appear to be a groundswell of support to make this change. And for good reason -- safety should be paramount.

That's why we oppose state Rep. Barbara Wheeler's effort to legalize the sale and purchase of most consumer-grade fireworks.

And we don't buy at least one of her reasons for changing the law.

The Crystal Lake Republican said her proposal would "generate some business and tax revenue that will help mitigate some of the exodus of people leaving the state." There are a lot of reasons residents are leaving and state finances are one, but being able to shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July or other holidays hardly seems like a prime culprit to even mention in that discussion.

What we do know is that most safety groups decry the use of fireworks by consumers because of the inherent dangers. And in fact, they would like to see sparklers, which are legal in Illinois, banned as well.

"Parents don't realize they burn at about 2,000 degrees -- hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet," according to the Itasca-based National Safety Council.

The council "advises everyone to stay away from all consumer fireworks and to only enjoy fireworks at a public display conducted by professionals."

In 2013, fireworks caused about 15,600 fires in the U.S., including 1,400 structure fires, 200 vehicle fires and 14,000 other fires.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says the number of injuries has been rising in Illinois the last five years despite the ban, peaking with 349 in 2017. Nationally, 11,100 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment in 2016, according to another safety group.

Those statistics should sober up any backyard BBQ'er who wants to add to his Fourth fun.