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Are the Florida Firework laws a dud?

10:47 PM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For Ron May, fireworks are a way of life.

"Who could come in to all this with a frown," he said.

He's run Ron's Fireworks with his brother-in-law for 15 years, and still gets a kick out of it.

"Bottle rockets, snakes, sparklers, cakes, traditional stuff, you know," he said.  

As the years have gone on, their products have gotten bigger, and brighter.

"Now a days, things just don't go up and down, they go sideways, and have designs, and corkscrews," May said.

But the law in Florida has changed things. 

And while the brothers have everything that lights up under the sun, the only thing that a the average citizen can legally possess is a sparkler.

But a gaping loophole in the law allows firework distributors across the state to keep selling.

"It's how the loophole works, everybody does it. But by doing that, you say you're going to do the right thing. We're going to show you how to operate things properly, and that's what you're going to do when you sign that. You're going to be responsible," May said.

Every person who walks in to Ron's has to sign a waiver agreeing that they've read the law, and will only use what they buy for those express purposes.

Law abiding purposes include only setting off fireworks for a public celebration with a permit. 

Residents can also blast off for industrial railroad use, for religious purposes, at fish hatcheries or if you're trying to scare pests of your crop.

Odds are most people aren't coming to Ron's to scare the bugs off their tomatoes.

Possessing fireworks illegally is a misdemeanor, and can result in a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

But the law is rarely, if ever, enforced in Florida.

Ron posts the Fire Marshall code, and has the statute available for people to read with their purchase, but says it's more important that their customers are safe.

"People think you just light a fire work and that's it. But around here, you get the explanation. We have them out, so people can see how to operate them. We tell them, they are extremely powerful, they are extremely dangerous, they're beautiful," he said.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, 9,600 people were injured with fireworks in 2011, and they caused nearly 18,000 fires.

First Coast News

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