Opinions Editor

Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

Listen to this article

For obvious reasons, most dogs hate the Fourth of July. Fireworks just make too much noise, and our four- legged, tail-wagging, loyal friends can’t wait for a little peace and quiet.

What do cats think about fireworks? They have a habit of considering almost everything that crosses their paths, including the people they own, with a cavalier sneer.

But Wikipedia reports that they, too, could do without fireworks because cats, like their more noble canine counterparts, “associate loud noises with danger, and will be stressed and fearful.”

But what about the people of Illinois? What do they think about fireworks?

Common sense would indicate they, like residents of other states, like them. Or at least enough do that, in addition to fireworks shows conducted in legal venues, the days approaching and following July 4 are filled with the sounds of exploding firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80s and whatever else pyrotechnicians can create and sell.

Despite that, the state of Illinois’ official position is that fireworks are illegal. The state bans the use or purchase of fireworks, ostensibly on safety grounds. It permits the sale of what are called “novelty items,” like snakes and sparklers, ostensibly on

the grounds that they are safe.

Anybody who’s ever seen the red-hot wire created by a sparkler has to scoff at that conclusion. They generate nice visuals on a dark night, but the threat of serious burns is obvious.

That, however, is the law, and it’s been that way for a while.

Illinois is among six states that mostly or completely ban the use or purchase of fireworks. Massachusetts has a complete ban, while Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio join the Land of Lincoln with near-bans.

Those who violate those bans face both federal and/or state prosecution, although authorities mostly turn a blind eye to the activities of those who purchase fireworks in Indiana or Missouri and bring them back across the state border.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, would like to change the law. But he’s getting nowhere fast in his effort to persuade his legislators in the Democratic-controlled legislature to join him.

Given the massive illegal inflow of fireworks from other states, he sees Illinois’ ban on sales to be both pointless and an unnecessary drag on revenues. He’s even shaping his arguments to meet the times.

“With the massive decline in state revenues due to the COVID, this would be an easy way to pick up some sales-tax dollars and put some people to work in our state, and they are just not interested,” Rose recently was quoted as saying of legislators.

He estimates the state would bring in about

$10 million a year in additional revenues

Fire-safety groups, of course, do not agree, and for good reasons. They see the injuries and fires that result from mishandling fireworks. Then again, the reason they see them is because thousands of Illinoisans ignore the law and hurt themselves or damage property when they mishandle fireworks.

Illinois’ financial situation is so dire that a few extra million in revenues gained from legalizing fireworks sales wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to the state’s debts. But there is money in fireworks sales.

The Illinois Policy Institute recently reported that Indiana officials estimate that state gains

$2.5 million in fireworks-related sales-tax revenue and fees. Seasonal sales, IPI reported, generate “roughly 4,000” jobs, “especially in sales near the Indiana state line” — or, to put it another way, on the Indiana side of the Illinois border.

One can call Illinois’ fireworks laws either “outdated” or “principled,” but one thing seems clear — they won’t be changing anytime soon.

That’s surprising given the size of the fireworks industry. IPI estimates that firework enthusiasts spend

$1 billion every year.

One would think that the average fireworks magnate — assuming there is one — could spread enough money around to persuade the yahoos in Springfield to legalize the sale of dynamite to minors, let alone traditional fireworks to those who already go across the state’s borders to buy them.

Whatever, it should be all quiet on the Fourth of July front. The dogs, cats and more than a few people appreciate the statutory sentiment. Of course, the law is a non-entity in the real world, a situation that means dogs will require human and humane therapy. Cats will, too, but they hate to interact with people.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at 217-351-5369 or jdey@news-gazette.com.