What are consumer fireworks? - Consumer fireworks are those fireworks engineered for use by the general public. They include your average fountains, spinners, ground bloomers, red whips, morning glories and even your plain ol' sparklers. Since 2011, those listed have been illegal on the island of Oahu. Many residents did not know the full extent of the new law until they walked into retailers after Christmas that year.
What progress have we made? -Since the start of this petition, City & Council members have seen the petition and were emailed a whopping 32 pages of petition comments! It was however noted that it would be unlikely that consumer fireworks would be completely legalized once more.
Where are we going now? -This petition is being re-opened and updated as of February 2014 with no substantial changes, but will alter dated content, definitions and additional information.
As a note -Though a "ban" may not be the proper legal term for the law that restricts fireworks use, it will be used throughout this petition to indicate said law or bill. It is also used as the name of our movement to legalize further forms of consumer fireworks: "UnBan Honolulu Fireworks."
The illegalization of consumer fireworks on Oahu is a movement that benefits few and disenfranchises the many. For years, consumer fireworks such as sparklers and firecrackers have been a part of Hawai'i's culture when it comes to the New Years holiday. The "ban," put into action after yearly complaints of the smoke by some, dampers the celebratory activities of the many in the claim that it is for the "good" and health of all.
Ironically, the ban makes all "normal" consumer fireworks illegal such as fountains, ground bloomers, and even sparklers while allowing the most dangerous--firecrackers--to still be purchased so long as the consumer has bought a $25 permit for each firecracker content of 5000 "tubes."
While it is Hawai'i tradition to set off long strings of firecrackers at the break of midnight or 12AM New Years day, without any other option for fireworks purchases, consumers will buy more of the smoke-causing firecrackers than ever. I, in particular, told myself that the permit was not going to stop me from celebrating the way I have since I was a child - a notion that I am sure many have come to as well. In line at city hall one year, I had noticed that consumers were purchasing as many as eight permits at once, proving that a permit was not going to stop them from celebrating.
On the retail side of things, retailers have been forced to only sell the traditional red-tube versions of firecrackers. Sometime around 2009, these traditional versions were largely dropped for the lighter, far-less costly version of firecrackers. While the traditional versions consisted of countless rolls of red paper to contain the explosive powders, the newer versions did not use individual paper rolls and instead were engineered to have less debris (as nearly all of it would burn up). Traditional versions, on the other hand, are well-known for all of the red paper tubes left behind, occasionally even catching fire and littering our sidewalks. These red tubes also pose injury threat because they fly at high speeds in all directions. So why is it, then, that retailers are forced to sell only these traditional versions of the firecrackers if the aim is to "protect" people? 'Auwe!
The Department of Homeland Security did a Dangers of Fireworks study in 2005. These statistics only include consumer fireworks:
"Firecrackers were responsible for the greatest number of injuries (1,600) in 2003, followed by bottle rockets (1,000) and sparklers (700)."
Now, you must remember that this data is made up of all states including those that have no permit system or limits, which may explain the high number of injuries, however, look at the first statistic. Firecrackers - the only consumer firework that the city and county allows us to have, are the most dangerous apparently. Sparklers have half as much injuries and are likely to be attributed to the hands of those whom aren't careful with them.
I am not suggesting to ban firecrackers instead of everything else, however, it seems clearly apparent that allowing the newer version of them would be an integral part of squelching the "safety" concern of state officials - one that seems to be severely self-defeated by the ban that ONLY allows the most dangerous of consumer firecrackers. Did anyone do their research and think this through before putting the new law in place?
Speaking of safety, though the concern may be real, in the context of things, it is merely an excuse to exercise a law that satiates the "affected." Why? First is the irony of the ban explained above. Second is that more likely than not, the loudest noises, the serious safety issues and serious injuries come from illegal aerial fireworks. Consider that the launching of an aerial consists of an explosive projectile hurled into the air at 100 feet per second. That converts to a more understandable speed of 68 miles per hour. Also, should such aerials fail to launch high enough, have faulty detonations, or simply go the wrong way, they pose a fire threat to roofs and trees.
It is these kinds of fireworks that pose the greatest safety threat to all, however, the excuse of safety is being used to ban consumer fireworks instead. Consumer fireworks are much more manageable. If I could pull the sales of consumer fireworks from New Year's past, I could give you an extremely large number of consumer fireworks sold vs. the number of injuries, fires and so forth... and more than likely you would see that such occurances are the extreme minority. My family and I have used consumer fireworks since I was little, every year for about 25 years. Never have I been harmed, gotten sick, or have seen anyone else harmed. Is that enough proof of a rareity for the state?
Common sense and even the facts are there: stop using safety as an excuse for the ban.
In addition to the dangers of the traditional version, the city's ban on all consumer fireworks causes a huge damper on the sales that many retailers could rely on year after year. No doubt it also affects the various owners of pop-ups during the season and have run many of them out of business. The ban is bad for the economy and also causes a hardship on the residents here whom need to now spend a total of about $75.00 per each firecracker content of 5000 individual tubes. It is $25 per permit and around $50 for the full 5000 tube content firecracker (this means it is one string, 5000 crackers long), because consumers are not allowed to purchase the cheaper version.
Effects on Culture and Tradition
The hardship also comes in the form of a severe demoralizing. The New Year's fireworks celebration has been a family tradition for myself and many others since as long as I could remember. After learning I could not purchase even the smallest of sparklers as an adult, it has been incredibly depressing the closer and closer I get to New Years. Update: It truly has been a depressing past New Years. We did not celebrate at all to bring in 2014. It was the first this has happened since I can remember.
Many of us believe that fireworks ward off bad spirits as is rooted in the Chinese tradition. What about for those whom are actually Chinese? Our local population is made up of vastly different cultures including a population estimate of over 54,000 (Census 2009) Chinese-alone in the state of Hawaii; and that is nothing to speak of those of us whom are mixed. It is not unknown that many also celebrate Chinese New Year in February. It is just like telling families whom celebrate Christmas that they cannot purchase Christmas trees and gifts and have to find a new way to celebrate Christmas.
For many in Hawaii, New Year's is as big as Christmas and is a big part of Island culture, maybe even bigger than Christmas for some.
J U S T I C E
Plain, simple and easy to see is that the ban on fireworks is unjust. The very first line of the body of our petition spells it out clearly: it is "a movement that benefits few and disenfranchises the many." We are not talking about "health," "loudness," and "fires." That is what non-supporters, of course, will use for ammunition in their protest of our petition. We are talking about what the people want, in a bigger sense, equality.
Yes. Not everyone can get what they want, but who decides who does? In many cases, our government officials are the ones. The ban did not give a happy medium to all and was done so under the guise of being a safety measure. The ban gave those "affected" by fireworks what they want, and those many families and children whom celebrate, bond, practice their traditions and culture with fireworks what they did not. Our petition sets out to PROVE this. Did the people collectively say they would compromise and accept just firecrackers with a permit? No, the people DID NOT, at least not enough, and not the majority. Were we even asked? Does anyone remember? Was anyone there to listen to us? Or were they just listening to those few whom were "angry," paying attention to those few whom misused, not seeing that thousands of people use consumer fireworks safely versus those whom do not?
The ban is selfish. It is just like someone saying "I hate the smoke and I hate the noise... so I think all of Oahu should be punished. No one should have their traditions. No children should play with sparklers. Retailers shall suffer. Pop-up owners shall shut down all for ME... me: the one who matters most - the affected!" Yes, some do not go to those extremes, but the ban itself is an outcome that sure makes it seem that way.
What about the wrong-doers? The ban punishes many for the actions of a few. We forget that there are those out there who really should not have fireworks, abuse the privilege and cause danger. However, there must be a better way than to kill the traditions of all for the idiocy of a few.
How does it feel to know that laws are catalyzed and put in place because of complaints and instances of misuse - or even - because of the personal wants of those with the power to put them in place? How does it feel to know that these complaints and instances fail to be the majority of the island? -That laws are giving the complainers what they want and officials are not considering everyone else? Why is it that a law is not put into place because it is the best choice to supply the people with a happy medium? Sure, it looks like (and they will probably say) that they did give consideration to others because they put the permit system into place and still allowed firecrackers. That does not say anything for the lack of actually listening to the opinions of all, not just the complaints.
Yes, I do have concern for those affected by the smoke, but at the same time, I concern myself with the many whom are affected by the laws that disenfranchise them. I am not hoping for a complete reinstatement of the use of all consumer fireworks but rather a compromise or some kind of happy medium arrived at by listening to the opinions of all the people, not JUST the complainers.
Essentially, why should the law be revised? -Because our officials need to do what is RIGHT. -Because it seems as if no one was thinking before passing a bill that completely illegalized all fireworks except for firecrackers. -Because it seems that personal adjendas are at work. -Because it seems that no one was considerate of those who actually use fireworks--the laws cater to those who do not.
The ban takes away our freedoms, demoralizes our spirits, stifles and crushes our family, local, and cultural traditions. It is a blow to retailers and also to the pockets of consumers and may even be self-defeating of its purpose due to the fact that consumers can no longer buy the non-debris-causing versions of firecrackers. Please help us in our efforts to lift this ban or come to a new agreement with our officials over consumer fireworks.
We want the use of normal consumer fireworks to be reinstated, including such items as fountains, ground bloomers, sparklers, and the safer, less-debris causing non-tube version of firecrackers. I believe we can still make New Years safer while also allowing Oahu residents to have their traditions.
(these do not represent the views of the whole, but are suggestions by individuals):
1. Include in the permit system an allowance for normal consumer fireworks including such items as fountains, ground bloomers, sparklers and "non-tube" version of firecrackers. Permit fees for these items should be considerably less than those for the "tube-version" of firecrackers.
2. Place considerable restrictions on fountains: the spray can be no taller than 6 feet (as is the normal limit in other states).
3. Allow such items as morning glories and sparklers to be purchased without permit, while keeping the permit to fuse-lit fireworks.
4. Compromise with the 4th of July. Firecrackers are a Chinese tradition with regards to the New Year and hence are a bit out of place for July 4th. If at least our New Years traditions are returned, some would be glad to give up firecrackers on July 4th, leaving usage for that holiday limited to sparklers and fountains.
5. Reinstate the use of fireworks without permit while at the same time enabling a natural restriction system by way of placing a tax on them. -A suggestion that would help increase revenues for the state.
6. Revise the law to allow consumer fireworks with reasonable limits on their purchase, taking into consideration the smoke-causing effects of different items. Allow larger quantities of those less smoke-causing and smaller quantities of those more smoke-causing. All the ban did is it concentrated the smoke and noise to the areas of the people whom bought firecrackers (and lots of them) - because that's all there was to buy, and one could buy as many firecrackers as they wanted so long as they paid for permits for them.
7. Allow at least the smaller, less-dangerous consumer fireworks.
8. Allow the use of the other consumer fireworks with the purchase of a permit but limit the amount of permits one can buy.
9. Allow the use of the other consumer fireworks but take into consideration the usage statistics by O'ahu towns and limit the amount of permits one can buy who is a resident in high usage areas.
**If you have suggestions for solutions or revisions to the current law, please post them @UnBanFireworks on twitter and they will be added here.**
**Also, if you were or know someone who was a previous owner of a fireworks pop-up (the various tents around the island selling fireworks) please let us know how the ban has affected your business.**