Common Sense Exploded
On one level, it’s peculiar that so much attention should be paid to a simple change of law to make some minor fireworks legal. On another level, the issue is emblematic of Rhode Island governance.
When I first read of the change, slipped into an article about municipal receivership, I made a light-hearted note in the margins: “finally, common sense.”
Also signed by Carcieri over the weekend was a bill that legalizes certain ”
“hand-held” and “ground-based” fireworks, including sparklers, smoke devices and glow worms.
State lawmakers said they passed the bill because it will help businesses, help the state and allow Rhode Islanders to enjoy holiday items that are available in most states.
The idea that sparklers were illegal in Rhode Island always struck me as absurd, especially given such defining events as the Bristol Fourth of July parade. Of course, this being Rhode Island, lawmakers couldn’t just research the language in other states with the desired policy and copy it or, alternately, research the technical names of the specific devices that they wished to legalize and name them. Given the stated scope of the law, I chuckled when the above article went on to explain legislators’ motivation as the creation of economic opportunity, but then:
Welcome to Rhode Island’s own Wild Wild West of pyrotechnics, where Casey’s Legal Fireworks of Conimicut Village — an empty storefront just five days ago — is the first of what’s expected to be a horde of local stores to offer “hand-held” or “ground-based” flammable entertainment with little or no direction from law-enforcement or fire officials.
Store owner James Casey plans to open two more roadside fireworks tents this weekend — one along Post Road and another in Oakland Beach. He believes what he’s selling is legal, but says there’s “so much confusion about what you can and can’t do.”
I can’t find the article, just now, but fire officials have confirmed that indoor fireworks displays (such as the gerb that started the Station Nightclub fire) are still banned, but nonetheless, it appears that either a lack of consideration or deliberate and careful wording has made the law much more inclusive than was the intent. Which is not to say that I oppose legalizing small consumer fireworks. It’d be nice, though, if legislators could be at least minimally aware of what they’re doing when they vote at the State House.