Archive for Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Students launch petition for fireworks change

July 12, 2005


Sixteen-year-old Chris Paradies has a message for those who want to keep fireworks banned in Lawrence.

"Suck it up and let some people have some fun," Paradies said.

Paradies, a junior at Lawrence High School, says he believes thousands of other people feel the same way. He is launching a petition drive, hoping to repeal the three-year-old ban. He and five friends will begin collecting signatures at the downtown sidewalk sale July 21.

"We basically don't think it is fair to punish everybody for some stupid actions by a few people," Paradies said.

The petition would not be a legal protest petition, forcing the issue to a referendum. Instead, Paradies hopes to attract enough signatures that city commissioners rethink the ban, which prohibits virtually all types of fireworks in the city limits.

Paradies said he would like to see the use of all standard fireworks allowed July 2-4. But he said he also would be open to permitting all but a few types of fireworks.

Or, he said, if commissioners don't want to decide the issue, he would be happy for the commission to put the ban to a citywide vote.

Lawrence High School juniors Chris Paradies, left, and Audrey Seybert have started a petition to legalize fireworks in Lawrence for the Fourth of July. They plan to collect signatures during the Downtown Sidewalk Sale on July 21.

Lawrence High School juniors Chris Paradies, left, and Audrey Seybert have started a petition to legalize fireworks in Lawrence for the Fourth of July. They plan to collect signatures during the Downtown Sidewalk Sale on July 21.

"I think this (ban) was just about a couple of people who complained and city commissioners went along with it," Paradies said. "Fireworks are safe if they're in the right hands."

Commissioners mixed

City commissioners didn't see it that way in late 2002, when they approved the ban at the urging of Fire Chief Jim McSwain. A year earlier, a fire that destroyed a Lawrence apartment was blamed on improper use of fireworks, and fire and medical officials had long said the devices created possibilities for injury.

City Commissioner David Schauner on Monday said those reasons haven't changed.

"The ban is not perfect, but it is something that we should work to preserve," Schauner said. "How many people have to have their eyes put out or receive serious burns before we say this is not a good idea in the city?"

But Mayor Boog Highberger said he would be interested to see how many signatures the petition garners. He said he would be hard-pressed to overturn a decision of a previous commission, but he said the current ban was tough to enforce.

"Before the ban, it seemed like the biggest problem was that a lot of people we're bringing in small arsenals and getting completely over the top," Highberger said. "If we could find a way to let kids shoot off a few fireworks, that would be worth considering."

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This year, Lawrence police officers responded to 313 calls concerning fireworks from July 1 to July 5. In order to adequately respond to the calls, the department on July 4 devoted four patrol cars to respond exclusively to fireworks-related complaints.

Topeka changes

Several firework vendors in the county said they were not involved in the petition effort, but were glad some individuals were becoming active on the issue.

Gary Bartz, an owner of Bartz Bros. Fireworks, said he hoped commissioners would be willing to rethink their positions. That happened recently in Topeka, where the city council in late June repealed decade-old regulations that prohibited fireworks that shot sparks higher than six feet in the air or went beyond a 12-foot diameter. Now, residents there can shoot essentially any type of fireworks.

Vicki Zielinski, the Topeka fire marshal, said she was still awaiting reports to see whether this year's July 4 celebration produced more injuries or property damage. She said she was concerned that the new regulations could lead to more accidents.

"The bad part is that once (fireworks) leave the ground they are really uncontrollable," Zielinski said.

If Paradies and his fellow students are able to get city commissioners to change the ban, it wouldn't be the first time that Lawrence youths have won a victory at City Hall. A student-led initiative resulted in the construction of a $125,000 skate park in Centennial Park in 1998.

Paradies thinks a petition drive led by students will be effective because fireworks are associated with so many childhood memories.

"Basically, I'm just the typical teenager who likes to shoot off fireworks," Paradies said. "I think it is a good way to celebrate my independence."


craigers 12 years, 10 months ago

I would definitely sign this petition.

neopolss 12 years, 10 months ago

Praise to this kid! At least he has a patriotic tune, unlike the ogres of city commission who most likely have all had trauma stories involving fireworks. The ban is exactly that. Brought on by the few and everyone is punished. Well, it doesn't work. If you took away every gun because the criminals had them, not only would we no longer have protection for ourselves, the criminals would still find a way to get guns. It is the same analogy here. Except now we're wasting city money and resources to respond to firework noise complaints.


Shardwurm 12 years, 10 months ago

Two thumbs up!!! There are way too many curmudgeons running around.

mefirst 12 years, 10 months ago

Okay, the recommendation for the ban came from the fire chief. What does he know? He's just risks his life fighting fires every day. What do you care whose life is endangered by fireworks, just so you get to display your superficial patriotism. And, I guess those 313 calls police had to respond to were pure poppycock.

Kids...if you want to get involved, contact your Congressman to demand Karl Rove's removal from the Bush Administration.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 10 months ago


The fire chief would probably call for a ban of BBQ grills and fireplaces in homes if he thought anyone would listen. Of course he asked for a ban... that's his job! The question, in part, is whether or not WE believe that the risks of fireworks are worth it. I think so, just as I think the risk of fireplaces are worth it.

Also: I think kids should be involved at this level. Let the adults deal with the problems we have in Washington.

As I re-read your post, the more I think I don't like you. How arrogant does a person have to be to call someone else's patriotism "superficial"?! I'd rather have superficial patriotism than have absent kindness toward children. I have more words for you, but if I use them they'll yank my post, so I'll refrain.

I'm signing the petition.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 10 months ago

Hey mefirst:

I read somewhere that 313 women were burned by curling irons in Lawrence last year. Will you sign my petition to ban curling irons, or is your concern for women "superficial"?

pylon25 12 years, 10 months ago

To me, the issue with fireworks is the same as the issue with firearms. It's all about responsible use. There is nothing wrong with fireworks if properly handled and used with some common sense, same with guns, responsible use equals safety (or at least a reasonable level of safety). With respect to the 313 police calls, how many of those do you think were uptight neighbors calling to make trouble and complain about the noise? I'd be willing to bet a large number. How many house fires or things of that nature were reported that day? None that were important enough to make the paper at least (none that I saw). I've never lived in an area in which they were legal, so i cant speak to what it's like to shoot them off without worrying about the cops showing up, but i imagine it creates a much more fun atmosphere. I'm not saying that a partial ban isnt a good idea in certain areas, such as dense residential, as some of the products available arent well suited for such situations.

mssking1 12 years, 10 months ago

hey, "mefirst" why can't kids be involved in both....why can't they be involved in issues that are important to them, too, not just the adults??? I have lived in this town almost all my life and have shot fireworks every year til the ban. Not one unpleasant incident in or around any neighborhood/area my family was (50 years). Sure they can be dangerous but so can walking across the street or drinking hot chocolate from McDonalds----let's just let the money holders in Lawrence control everything in our lives. THEY will be much happier.....

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 10 months ago

In Lawrence we can organize demonstrations for anything. When McDonald's closes for remodeling, we protest! What this needs is a full-scale demonstration, complete with a chant similar to the classic "heck no, we won't go" ("Hey... Ho... let the fireworks blow"?).

I'm sort of busy these days, otherwise I'd be glad to chair the "Ad Hoc Committee To Bring The Bang Back To Lawrence". Maybe one of you concerned adults can help the kids get that going.

Becky 12 years, 10 months ago

I want to be able to teach my son and daughter how to use fireworks. I will be looking for this kid at the sidewalk sale. I want to have fun on the 4th.

gaiapapaya 12 years, 10 months ago

I was one of the 313 calls the complaints the LPD received on the fourth. The polie came, looked at our illegal fireworks, told us they were fine and left. We didn't have any huge aerial fire works or bottle rockets, just some fun for us and the kids. I do think think there should be some limits on what you can shoot off, but obviously the police and fire dept (there was a fire/medical crew member with the police officer) don't want to spend all night responding to frivilous complaints against families using reasonable fireworks ina responsible manner. I'll totally sogn the petition.

OmegaPaiN 12 years, 10 months ago

Your beloved liberalism at work. Oh Lord, a few people are getting hurt by fireworks. People aren't capable of using them correctly. We have to save everyone from the scary fireworks and ban them because they're not smart enough to know better. Oh lord, a few people are working in smoky bars and don't know what's good for them. We must do something, so let's flush yet another personal or property right down the toilet in the name of public safety. It's just sad so many people align themselves with the left because they're for personal freedom, and this is what the left gives them, and they don't say a damn word.

pelliott 12 years, 10 months ago

I love the ban on fireworks. Injuries and burning homes are real. The stench of smoke, the howling animals aren't part of why I love this country and the constitution. The large fireworks display is great.

l_eustacy 12 years, 10 months ago

Right on Christopher!!! I've met your parents and they're great level-headed people. You've done an excellent job in approaching this issue. You have my full support.

I had a job in Iowa that I left because the people were too stuffy. I find it interesting and sad that our current ban is so strick in a city noted for liberalism.

Call me when you get to college, I'll stop by your fraternity for a few beers to help celebrate the repeal of this ban.


blueblood 12 years, 10 months ago

WEll obviously the ban works b/c no one shot off any fireworks over the holiday. Oh wait, they did, and the 313 calls the police responded to only represent a fraction of the people who still believe fireworks are a fun and safe way to celebrate the holiday, with some common sense. The fire chief lobbied for the ban, but I didn't see him responding to the complaints, leave it to the cops, b/c it's not like there were any fights, domestic disturbances, burglaries, accidents, etc. that needed attention. The ban has not worked, pure and simple, so what's the point of continuing to flush money and public resources down the drain in a losing battle to "enforce" it. I grew up setting off fireworks every year, and I never blew off a finger, set anything on fire or hurt anyone else. The fact is, people will still do it, and the idiots will still hurt themselves, ban or no ban. I hope this kid succeeds so we can move past this ban and focus our energy on more important issues.

simple_simon 12 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 10 months ago

We are off the subject of bringing the BOOM back to Lawrence, but I wanted to let you know that I suggested removal of the simple_simon post. It was a sexually suggestive comment about a minor. Totally wrong. A girl should be able to have her photo appear on without feeling like she's being "undressed" by grown men.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 10 months ago

I will add this to the mix:

Most fireworks injuries seem to involve kids. What we need to do is bring back the fireworks, but to include verbiage to our laws regarding the possession and use of fireworks by children. Adults should buy them, adults should light them, and those same adults should take responsibility for the safety of their children. We need laws similar to our beer laws, laws that make the purchaser of the fireworks responsible for the proper handling of the fireworks. I'm a big fan of bringing back fireworks to Lawrence, but I admit that I had too many firecrackers blow up in my hand when I was a kid, and in retrospect, "bottle rocket fights" probably were NOT a good idea. A little "regulation" can go a long way. A kid can have fun watching his dad (or the "baby's-daddy" of the family) handling the goods. Everyone will still have a good time.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 10 months ago

Let me correct you, offtotheright: I'm NOT proposing a "ban".

I just think a person should be an adult before they light the fuse on something that says "light and run away" on it's packaging. Some of us have kids lighting fireworks that are so young that they can't even read the instructions on the packages. A little kid lights a sparkler and gets to hold it while it burns. A few minutes later, that same child may not understand that holding a sparkler is not the same as holding a flaming rose.

"Does that say light and run away, or does it say light and stick up your little brother's nose?"

Enforcement will be no more difficult than what we now have in place (far less difficult, actually). We have cops, don't we? If a cop sees some 12 year olds sitting on the curb drinking a 40-ounce, he'll probably stop and deal with that. This is the same, and it's only one day out of the year, so let's not make it seem like a "budget-buster" for the cops to keep an eye out for unsupervised kids with fireworks.

Some minor regulation can go a long way to address the concerns of those who want to ban the stuff. I'm talking about lightweight laws that simply ask adults to be as much in control of their fireworks as they should be in control of their pets or their beer or anything else that needs to be "on a leash". If we had laws like this 20 years ago, more of our communities would still be allowing fireworks today.

Laws that impose common sense are not fascist, so let's avoid freaking out and making inappropriate references to Joe Stalin just because someone suggests that laws are sometimes a good thing.

opinionated 12 years, 10 months ago

How many citations were actually issued out of those 313 calls? Probably not very many. Personally I think the ban was created just to shut up those few whiners that don't know how to have fun. We should stop letting the City Commissioners decide on things like the fireworks ban, smoking ban, and other laws that have to deal with the majority of the publics personal lives. They should put it to a vote and let the people of our community decide.

And of course the fire chief is going to say that fireworks are a hazard, thats what he gets paid for. But just because someone says something is a hazard doesn't mean we have to ban it. Just about everything we do in our daily lives can be a hazard to an extent in certain circumstances. What should they ban all of that stuff too?

mefirst 12 years, 10 months ago

Hey OldEnough...

You don't like me? sad. There go my restful 8 hours of REM sleep. I listened to Fox 4 News give it's viewers advice on handling fireworks...have a bucket of water nearby in case your hand catches fire. Hey, shoot fireworks, but at least pick up your trash and try not to aim in the direction of any innocent bystanders. Yeah, right.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 10 months ago


I don't want this to degenerate into a running on-line argument between us, but it seems to me that you have a problem reading what I'm writing exactly as it's written. I'm not claiming that igorance can be legislated. Just because people are dumb and irresponsible doesn't mean we should fail to enact laws that help to direct people toward what is smart and responsible.

SOME laws about the handling of fireworks would help to give "moderation" to this polarized issue. Not having a complete "free for all" every July 4th is a way to provide the complainers with a sense that things are under control without having to criminalize fireworks as they have been for the last three years.

boomer51flood 12 years, 10 months ago

Kudos to this fine young man. I wish him well in his efforts. I have fond memories of the early 80's when I lived in Lawrence. A group of us would gather at the Animal's house every 4th of July and enjoy some good old time fireworks along with some great eats prepared by the Wetmore gal. We would practically have bombs going off and of course we always got a visit from some of Lawrence's finest before the evening was over. Let the tradition live on.

DonFpyrotech 12 years, 10 months ago

First off I applaud the efforts of these students its great to see that there are still some americans that care enough to get involved in politics. Someone explain when celebrating our independence day in the manner Adams and jefferson envisioned became so distasteful. Fact is while U.S. consumer fireworks sales increased more than 600 percent from 1976 to 2003, the injury rate (as measured by the number of injuries vs. pounds of fireworks sold) has decreased 88 percent. You are more likely to be hurt driving to a professional display than than by fireworks. Care to get into the number of injuries caused to children by organized school sports . Children are 100 times more likely to be injured play sports and 25 times more likely to be killed play these same sports than shooting fireworks.
As for fires started by fireworks the ignition temp of Black powder the main substance used in fireworks is 850 degrees F. while new print and other wood fiber based material is 450 degrees F. . If used properly fireworks are very safe, many accidents are caused by child neglect . "Close adult supervision " does not mean like the sparkler or punk and go have a beer. It means watch your child . Perhaps a compromise can be found in the form of designated shooting areas . These areas would have both police and fire officials present to insure safety. The cost to the city would be far less than attempting to patrol the whole town and would allow patriotic americans to celebrate our great nations independence.

DonFpyrotech 12 years, 10 months ago

OldEnuf2BYurDad 40 % of fireworks "injuries" involve children under 14 . Of those injuries over 50% were caused by sparklers. Most were minor burns. The stats listed include both consumer fireworks 1.4g, professional display fireworks 1.3g and illegal explosive devices ( which should not be included as they are not fire works, M-80s, block busters,ect The making , selling , or using of which is a federal offense under the 1966 child protection act, and the redundant homeland security act. The main reason is lack of parental supervision. I strongly disagree on legislation and regulations . we have more than enough laws and regulations in this country as it stands. It is impossible for a government to protect people from their own stupidity. As for liberalism at work, New york city has the most communistic police state laws of anywhere in the country concerning fireworks and anything else, nearly all of which were put in place by republican mayors and legislators. So that arguement doesn't hold water. The NFPA ( National fire protection agency) which was founded and is funded largely by the insurance industry has called for a complete ban on consumer fireworks siting false statistics. Last year there were just over 9300 injuries (I would have to double check but believe 4 deaths most of which were workers on professional displays) . The NFPA claims ten of thousands injured many firemarshalls quote these blatant untruths when speaking of fireworks. Bomb squad claim fireworks could level a block when tests prove consumer fireworks present no more fire danger than standard building materials. Paper and wood burn hotter than most fireworks, proof is in the tubes many of which are simply cardboard. Yet they don't spontaneously combust when fireworks are shot from them. Shall we ban gas after all its an explosive and far more dangerous than a bottle rocket or fountain. Or maybe we should ban water do you have any idea how many people die every year from dihydrogenmonoxide poisoning (water) . Where do you stop trying to legislate protection of the public. Your 4 times more likely to be burned by a cooking stove, and 14 thousand times more likely to be killed by a doctor than by fireworks.

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