HOW WE GOT HERE
Expanded fireworks sales to the public are now legal in Georgia.
FIREWORKS WIN. Gov. Nathan Deal this year signed into law HB 110, which legalized consumer fireworks, such as firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars, as of July 1.» 5 things to know about Georgia's new fireworks law
The law was adopted in Georgia after heavy lobbying and campaign donations by the pyrotechnic industry namely two large distributors Alabama-based TNT Fireworks and Phantom of Ohio. Those companies spent a combined $23,500 on a select list of lawmakers in 2015.
WHAT THE LAW ALLOWS:
- Fireworks can be shot between 10 a.m. and midnight most days of the year. The hours are extended to 2 a.m. on July 3 and July 4, and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
- Fireworks can’t be shot within 100 yards of a gas station, fuel-related industries, such as a refinery, or a nuclear power facility.
- Only people 18 years old and older can buy them in Georgia.
Georgia’s new law legalizing fireworks gave some residents a giant headache this weekend as loud, celebratory explosions lasted into the early morning hours and at least one metro-Atlanta man was seriously injured.
It was still too early to say, in some places, whether the number of fireworks-related complaints and injuries had increased from the previous holiday weekend. But social media was ablaze with posts from irritated Georgians fearing for their safety and complaining about the noise and mess. Some were still fuming Monday.
“It is ABSURD that this is allowed — never mind until 2:00 a.m. (what were they thinking?!?!?) in residential neighborhoods,” wrote Alice Melott in an e-mail to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I got no sleep all weekend and my holiday was ruined by the constant blowing up of things outside my home in residential Kirkwood. My dogs were terrified and traumatized, and I spent three nights wondering if my roof or yard would catch fire,” the resident of Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood said.
That complaint was echoed by Basem Alamoodi, of Tucker.
“It was annoying but I also thought it was not safe. Every time it seemed like there could be a fire,” he said.
One Cobb County man was seriously injured when a malfunctioning firework blew up and hit him in the back of his leg. Jeremy McCrackin was rushed to Kennestone’s trauma unit and had surgery to stabilize the bone, according to a gofundme site seeking help with his medical expenses. He has two broken bones in his leg and severe tissue damage and is going to have at least two more surgeries before he can begin his recovery. The 31-year-old had been helping a friend with a fireworks show at Governor’s Town Home Community in Acworth.
With complaints pouring in, a backlash was brewing against the new law on Monday. Adopted by state legislators earlier this year, it permits the sale and possession of fireworks and took effect July 1, just in time for the Fourth of July festivities. Georgians may set off fireworks any time between 10 a.m. and midnight for most of the year and until 2 a.m. around New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July. Areas near gas stations and nuclear plants are off limits but there are no other restrictions on where they can be ignited.
State Rep. Keisha Waites, D-Atlanta, on Monday called for the law’s repeal, saying it “goes too far and encroaches upon the rights of others.”
State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver — who calls Georgia’s new fireworks statute the “blow-the-child’s-hand-off” law — said she got numerous complaints from her constituents and supports amending the law to give local communities more control over where fireworks may be used.
“There seems to be an interest in giving cities and counties more authority to make rational decisions for their communities on when and where they may be shot off,” the Democrat from Decatur said.
The sponsors of the legislation – former state Rep. Jay Roberts of Ocilla and state Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga – did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Not everyone was complaining.
Jennifer McGee, of Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood, enjoyed the party.
“It was enjoyable to watch my child experience some awesome chemical reactions without having to brave the crowds and delays at the big displays,” McGee said. “I enjoyed being surprised at the loud noises and the hoots and hollers of neighbors all around me.”
Atlanta police said they tracked 155 fireworks-related incidents over the past weekend, though they could not immediately say how many such calls they received last year. While responding to a call about a loud noise that sounded like gunfire over the weekend, police spotted a man lighting and throwing fireworks. They arrested him and charged him with reckless conduct. Gwinnett County police said they received 52 calls concerning fireworks over the weekend, including complaints about loud noises. They and Cobb County police officials said they didn’t notice any major changes after the new law went into effect.
“Cobb County did not experience a significant increase in call volume for any noise disturbances over the July 4th holiday weekend as compared to previous recent weekends,” Officer Alicia Chilton of the Cobb County Police Department said in an email.
Dr. Fred Mullins, president and medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, said his organization’s campuses in Austell and Augusta treated between 25 and 30 fireworks-related injuries over the weekend. He added they saw as many as 45 in a previous year.
“People for some reason just like to light a firecracker and just look at it and wait for it to explode,” he said. “We get a lot of hand-burns and things like that.”
Officials at Grady’s Burn Center were still tabulating the numbers of patients they have treated with fireworks-related injuries.