This editorial was published by the Idaho Press of Nampa.
(Summer is that time of year when the) skies over the Treasure Valley will be lit up like — well, like the Fourth of July, with illegal aerial fireworks.
With a wink and nod — and a signing of a waiver that they won’t light illegal fireworks in the state of Idaho — hundreds, if not thousands, of Idahoans are heading to their favorite neighborhood fireworks stand to select the latest, loudest and brightest brand of illegal fireworks that shoot up more than 20 feet into the air, over parched, dusty lots and sun-baked rooftops.
As we do every year, we cross our fingers and hope that we don’t have a catastrophe like we had in 2016, when two separate fires destroyed homes and burned more than 2,500 acres of land.
In June 2016, more than 2,500 acres of land near Table Rock, a house and an outbuilding were destroyed by what investigators said was a Roman candle that was knocked over in the wind. Then 19-year-old Taylor Kemp confessed to lighting the firework that ignited the fire. He was ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in restitution. One week later, a Nampa home was destroyed July 5, 2016, from aerial fireworks lit off by a neighbor.
We can’t stress enough the importance of personal responsibility in all of this. If people simply took more personal responsibility for their actions, we wouldn’t have problems like this.
In the meantime, though, we have the law.
Last year, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued a legal opinion that the sale of illegal fireworks is illegal, despite the little waiver saying you won’t fire off the illegal fireworks in Idaho.
Despite that legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office, some law enforcement agencies are apparently ignoring it.
“We’re still trying to figure out what (the Attorney General’s opinion) means and how it applies to us,” Patrick Orr, spokesman for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, told the Idaho Press.
The Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, too, appears to be unclear on what to do.
“The County has not enacted any ordinances related to firework sales, and although we respect the opinion drafted by the Office of the Attorney General last year, there (are) still unclear areas in the interpretation,” Sheriff Chief Deputy Marv Dashiell wrote in an email to the Idaho Press.
Of course, there’s no county ordinance. The county doesn’t need one; there’s already a state law on the books stating these fireworks are illegal and a clear opinion of the Attorney General’s Office that sales of illegal fireworks are illegal. What’s the confusion here?
Law enforcement’s “see no evil, hear no evil” policy sends a bad message.
Under the same logic, marijuana growers can now sell marijuana in Idaho — just so long as they have the buyers sign a waiver stating they won’t light up in Idaho.
Do we need the Attorney General’s Office to issue an opinion stating that the sale of marijuana is illegal? And if the Idaho Attorney General’s Office writes that opinion, how long would it take law enforcement agencies to figure out what to do with that opinion? Someone could make a lot of money selling a lot of marijuana right under the nose of law enforcement.
Kudos to Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan, who said last week that he’ll seek restitution from the sellers of illegal fireworks if illegal fireworks start a fire.
It’s time to put an end to this foolishness. If we think it’s OK to shoot off fireworks, then by all means get rid of the Fireworks Act of 1997. Until then, though, it’s the law of the land, and law enforcement agencies should quit playing footsie with fireworks vendors and just enforce the law.