From the sound of most Independence Days, it would be hard to conclude fireworks are illegal in Iowa.

Those licensed, legal displays illuminating our river valley are surrounded by unlicensed, illegal displays that draw the same oohs and aahs. Blasts resonate through neighborhoods the entire holiday week and beyond.

From the sound of it, enforcement of Iowa’s 70-year-old ban seems almost nonexistent.

In that context, the bill in the Iowa Senate legalizing fireworks deserves debate.

In every other context, this sneak attack on Iowa law needs much, much more vetting before Iowa’s fireworks ban is wiped off the books.

The bill would end the hypocrisy of forcing Iowans to buy fireworks out of state, then use them freely at home. But our reading suggests this will create much more enforcement for local police. The bill establishes penalties for selling to minors. It allows local fire chiefs to enact bans on particularly hot or dry days – not uncommon in summertime Iowa – then establishes offenses for violators. Enforcement, of course, falls to local police, who certainly need to be consulted before this becomes law.

Doctors, firefighters and moms and dads also may have something to say about this bill that popped out of a Senate committee last week. We’ve been to legislator forums, researched special interest wish lists and published hundreds of letters. We hadn’t heard a peep about legalizing fireworks.

So the bill’s quick approval in Senate committee during the final week of committee work startled us like bottle rocket.

Upon reflection, we expect legal Iowa fireworks would draw a lucrative business from across the Illinois border. Our safety concerns are tempered by the fact that recreational fireworks already seem eagerly embraced by Iowans.

But this proposal is far too provocative to be rushed into law. Fireworks have been illegal in Iowa since shortly after a dropped sparkler on Independence Day 1936 destroyed 20 businesses and left 100 people homeless in Remsen, Iowa. Five years before that, fireworks were blamed for a blaze that leveled five blocks of downtown Spencer.

Of course, lots has changed in those intervening seven decades. And Prophetstown and Maquoketa residents know that fireworks aren’t needed to ignite blazes that destroy downtowns.

Still Iowa can wait a year to gather more input before rushing through this life and limb-changing proposal.

(6) comments


Boy oh boy, nothing kills fishing like a fireworks display ..... It's like flipping a light switch on the "bite' ..... And we have them here in the summer nearly every weekend ... after every Friday and Saturday night home game for the Bandits (or whatever we are calling them this year) .... Then every event on the Davenport riverfront

I can understand doing it once or twice a year, especially the 4th but when you are doing it nearly every weekend it's starts to look like a license to litter ..... and it mostly ends up in the river where we get our drinking and bathing water .... not too bright People


Lessee, the want to legalize fireworks for the following rationale: everyone's already doing it, so we might as well pass a law that makes it legal. It's dangerous, but we're willing to tolerate some danger in exchange for common sense usage. Parents won't like it, but it will be strictly regulated to keep out of hand of children. I wish these politicians could apply the same logic to marijuana laws.


How come no one points out the sick hypocrisy that we have stronger laws for fireworks than we do for handguns

If everyone and their brother can carry a handgun then banning fireworks is really silly ....


There is risk in everything. Fireworks laws are seldom enforced on Class C stuff. They big stuff however, like artilery simulators will generally get a squad car into the neighbor hood. Common sense please in all things.


This brings back memories of late night runs to the Missouri state line in th mid 70's to load up on fireworks. You would resell half of them to pay for your half of the fireworks and gas for the trip. Kind of a big deal back then, not so much now. Still, we thought we were rural Iowa secret agents on a mission. I still have all my fingers.

coffee cup
coffee cup

I want M-80s!

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