Fourth fireworks send many to S.C.

By William R. Toler

June 25, 2014

WALLACE, S.C. — As Independence Day draws near, some Richmond County residents will flock south of the border for fireworks.

The Tar Heel State has a ban on any pyrotechnics that spin or leave the ground, including bottle rockets and Roman candles, allowing only simple fireworks such as sparklers and smokers. There are few exceptions, which require a permit from government bodies.

Anyone caught possessing or using contraband fireworks can be charged with a misdemeanor.

A Wednesday drive through Marlboro County, South Carolina, found only one open vendor, Highway 1 Fireworks, just south of the state line near Wallace.

Shuford Quick, the store’s owner, said most of the other stands won’t open until the weekend before July Fourth. He said his store has been open since Memorial Day and will stay open until Independence Day, opening again for Labor Day weekend and the week before Christmas.

Quick said that although he has some local business, North Carolinians make up for 80-90 percent of his revenue.

“North Carolinians every year are forced to venture to South Carolina and Tennessee to purchase fireworks that are not permitted in N.C. while our state continues to lose millions of dollars in much-needed revenue every year,” said Zach Harris, a resident of Matthews.

Harris started the Facebook page Legalize Consumer Fireworks in North Carolina last December, and says he strongly disagrees with the current state law.

“I got the idea to write each legislator in the North Carolina General Assembly last Fourth of July pertaining to legalizing more pyrotechnics and (promoting) safety over prohibition,” he said.

Harris said he has spoken with Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, who also represents neighboring Anson County, and plans to submit a comprehensive proposal legalizing all consumer pyrotechnics for Brody to introduce next January.

“My proposal, while allowing citizens of North Carolina to use and sell consumer fireworks, will strengthen penalties for those who choose to misuse consumer fireworks and the tax revenue received from firework sales will benefit public safety throughout the state,” he said.

Mitch Kokai, a policy analyst with the John Locke Foundation, said a blanket ban on fireworks doesn’t make sense and the state shouldn’t be in the business of making purchasing decisions for the people.

“If government got out of the way of people’s choices to buy fireworks, North Carolina counties along the border with South Carolina could see an economic impact,” he said.

Harris agrees.

“Most public officials, particularly the fire service, say, ‘Leave the pyro to the professionals,’” he said.

“Instead, I would like to say to the residents of North Carolina: Celebrate the birth of our nation as you wish to do so and if you do choose to use consumer fireworks, please do so safely and make sure you have a water source handy.”

Harris added, “Make sure once you finish using consumer fireworks, clean up all firework debris left.”

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-997-3111, ext. 16.