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Give local communities control over fireworks sales

Give local communities control over fireworks sales

More local control could help reduce complaints, problems

Other than fireworks manufacturers, about the only beneficiaries of New York's legalization of ground-level fireworks were the makers of headache medicine, ear plugs, pet tranquilizers and burn ointment.

For most everyone else except the fireworks users, it was a giant pain in the keester.

After the four-day July 4th holiday, during which legal and illegal fireworks could be heard in every community from dawn to dusk, elected officials were swamped with demands for new noise ordinances and curfews.

As if their police officers didn't have anything better to do on a long summer weekend, dispatchers' phones were ringing off the hook with late-night calls from sleepy neighbors who quickly lost patience with the thump-and-crack of the rockets’ red glare at 4 o'clock in the morning.

It's clear there were many unintended -- although not unanticipated — consequences of the new fireworks law.

The law allowing the sale of sparkler-type fireworks gave authority over whether to allow the sales to individual counties. Seeing the potential for a few sales-tax dollars, a lot of counties — including many around here — went for it.

But the problems associated with the fireworks went far deeper than the county level.

Left to deal with the fallout were town supervisors and mayors and members of municipal boards. Local police were the ones running around from street to street chasing noise complaints in the middle of the night.

Since the problems fell to local communities so should the choice on whether to allow the sale of the fireworks in those communities.

The tourist village of Lake George is the first community to seek relief.

Village officials want Warren County to rescind its approval of the fireworks sales, thereby driving them out of the village and the immediate vicinity.

Their theory is that people will tend to buy the fireworks close to where they live. Some will travel to other towns, but the purchase of fireworks seems to be more about impulse than a quest. Out of sight, out of mind, and maybe out of town.

But the counties are unlikely to go backward. If they refuse to back off and decide to keep the sales legal countywide, then Lake George and other small communities in our region will continue to be stuck with the noise, the litter, the fires, the injuries and the complaints.

That's not right. Since the problem is hyper-local, so should be the solution.

Local communities should have the right to say no to firework sales within their borders. That not only will give them more control over the sales, but also will help discourage the use of fireworks and help their overworked police agencies keep a better handle on the peace.

As we said in an earlier editorial, communities probably already have enough laws on the books to be able to enforce noise and nuisance complaints.

What they need is to be able to say no to the sales, and hopefully that will reduce the volume of instances and the negative impact on their citizens.

State and county lawmakers obviously didn't put much thought into the fireworks law and the potential consequences.

But now that we've gone through one long loud summer holiday, they need to made adjustments.

One of them should be amending the law to give communities greater local control over sales.

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