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Were you outraged, around July 4, that there was no statewide ban on the sale of fireworks?
You’re not alone.
So was almost everybody else, including several newspaper editorial writers.
Some legislators have tried to change the New Mexico law; while several bills in favor of public safety died in committee, the law has been amended more than once in favor of the fireworks industry.
The dangerous conditions are not the fault of the fireworks industry, and nobody is alleging otherwise.
In matters of this nature, special interests tend to turn the argument upside down, implying that they are being scapegoated for conditions they did not cause.
So let’s be clear that the public is not confused about this.
Fireworks did not cause the drought. But fireworks are a hazardous product, and the sellers do not control how purchasers use or misuse them.
All it takes is one careless person to cause a tragedy, and Heaven knows there is no shortage of careless people.
The public interest is greater than this industry’s right to do business. We can find many other instances where the sale of products is restricted because public safety demands it. There is also a liability issue that has not been much discussed.
When a drunk driver injures or kills someone, the bartender can be held responsible.
It took this state a long and bloody history of drunk driving tragedies to establish that liability.
I have not heard of any cases where a fireworks seller has been held financially liable for a fire caused by a product he sold, and I hope it never happens, but I wonder if they are insured for this.
We have heard that the governor wants to get this law changed during the special legislative session in September.
At that time, this issue may seem less urgent; it will no doubt be eclipsed by the drama of redistricting.
And the memory of the heat, the fires, and the danger may already be fading from our minds.
So I suggest that right now, while the memory of July 4 is still fresh in your mind, is the time to tell your state representative and state senator you want to restore the authority of the governor and local authorities to ban the sale and use of fireworks when public safety demands it.
Also, that you want the law to base that authority on simple, common-sense criteria rather than an arcane technical standard.
You can write a letter, send an e-mail, or make a phone call, politely and respectfully asking for a commitment on this issue.
If you want to read the current statute, go to the Legislative Council Service web site at www.nmlegis.gov/lcs and use the Bill Finder; select the 2007 regular session and look up Senate Bill 267. Or find the law in a statute book at Chapter 60, Article 2C.
You can also contact local authorities, including your fire department, and tell them you support this change.
If scheduling permits, you can ask your neighborhood, homeowners or community association to adopt an official position restoring the authority of both state and local officials to ban fireworks when necessary for public safety.
And while you’re making the list, add our members of — and candidates for — congress, so public officials can have some control over the sale of these products on Indian land.
My real hope is that most of the fireworks sellers will have lost their shirts on this year’s operation and will decide to go into another line of work.
I wish them well.
© New Mexico News Service 2011