State lawmaker reignites fireworks debate as July 4th approaches

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With the Fourth of July holiday just around the corner, a state lawmaker is sparking the debate again over the idea of legalizing fireworks like firecrackers and aerial fireworks in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports.

Currently, sparklers, charcoal snakes and cones are among the only legal fireworks in Minnesota. Non-explosive fireworks have been legal in the state since 2002.

State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who pushed for the legalization of aerial fireworks this past legislative session, said because Wisconsin is only 25 minutes away, "fireworks are already unofficially legal in the south metro."

Garofalo argued that the opposition to fireworks is based "primarily on emotions instead of facts."

“If you think about it, a Minnesotan can legally drive a 5,000-pound vehicle or own a shotgun, but our government says these same people can’t be trusted to responsibly light off a bottle rocket," Garofalo told the Star Tribune in an email. "It really makes no sense.”

Fireworks legalization passed the Legislature in 2012, but was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton, the Pioneer Press said.

In his veto letter, Dayton explained: “Government has the responsibility to do its utmost to protect vulnerable young Minnesotans, courageous firefighters and police officers, and innocent bystanders of all ages, who could become victims of someone else’s carelessness.”

Dayton also noted most Minnesotans are responsible enough to ignite and explode those inherently dangerous devices properly and safely, unfortunately, some are not."

From 2002 to 2012 – during the two-week period around the Fourth of July – injuries from non-aerial and non-explosive fireworks increased by about 110 percent, the Pioneer Press said. In addition, the paper said, property lost to fireworks damage increased 500 percent.

Cities, of course, can contract legal aerial and explosive fireworks shows, but at a steep cost. St. Cloud's fireworks show, for example, costs about $30,000 annually.

Last year, Red Wing canceled its annual fireworks show, since the city came up $3,000 short of its $10,000 goal to put on the display.

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