Westrom calls for more fireworks to be sold in Minnesota

WASHINGTON - JUNE 26:  U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Harold D. (Hal) Stratton, Jr., looks at the display of illegal fireworks during a demonstration showing the possible dangers caused by bottle rockets during a show of explosives and the destructive force of illegal fireworks on the ground of the Washington Monument June 26, 2003 in Washington, DC. The commission is urging consumers to celebrate the Independence Day holiday safely by not purchasing or using illegal fireworks and by adhering to safety guidelines if using legal ones.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A few of the aerial fireworks that are illegal in Minnesota.
Illegal fireworks
A few of the aerial fireworks that are illegal in Minnesota.

A state lawmaker is using this year’s 4th of July to call for legislation that would expand the sale and use of fireworks in Minnesota. Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, says he plans to introduce a bill next session to legalize more fireworks in Minnesota.

Westrom says his bill would allow Minnesotans to sell and use fireworks like bottle rockets, firecrackers and Roman candles. Minnesota already allows smaller, novelty fireworks like sparklers, but does not allow aerial and big bang fireworks.

Westrom says nearby states already sell a wider array of fireworks. He says many Minnesotans cross the state border to buy those fireworks, so it makes sense for Minnesota to sell them and collect the additional sales taxes.

"Our state could be a net beneficiary by allowing these products to be sold in our state and collect the sales tax on them," Westrom said. "Because right now it's illegal, but yet it still goes on."

But Erick Bothun, president of the Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology who is an eye surgeon at the University of Minnesota, says he opposes any bill that would expand the sale of fireworks.

“The concept that we’d have aerial fireworks come back seems like a lot of fun for the backyards, it comes with it a health risk that is inherently unavoidable and is a concern for eye care providers," said Bothun, who is an eye surgeon at the University of Minnesota.

Gov. Dayton vetoed a bill that would have allowed for the expansion of fireworks in 2012. In his veto letter, Dayton said he had concerns the bill would increase injuries and property damage.

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