It's time to rethink city's ban on most fireworks

The current law is not enforced and is ignored by many citizens.

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The city of Walla Walla's fireworks law -- and the enforcement of that law -- is a joke.

Walla Walla was like a war zone July 4 despite the city's ban on fireworks that fly or go boom. The disregard for the law was so pervasive local police didn't issue any citations despite investigating more than 50 violations.

Officer Tim Bennett, one of two officers assigned specifically to patrol for fireworks violations, said only a fraction of the people setting off fireworks would have been fined because so many people were in violation.

Additionally, he said, most people told officers they didn't realize fireworks were illegal in the city.

That defense fizzles. Walla Walla's ban on fireworks has been a a hot topic of conversation among those who want to buy fireworks that soar and explode. It's why fireworks stands are not set up within the city limits but just outside the city in the county. Nearly all -- if not all -- of those buying the big-boom fireworks know exactly what they are doing.

Bennett said having the stands so close to the city limits gives the impression that everything being sold is legal in the city.

"There needs to be some changes made," Bennett said.

He's got that right.

City officials can't keep telling people Walla Walla has strict fireworks laws when the bombs bursting in air tell a much different story. To borrow from the Hans Christian Andersen story, the emperor has no clothes -- and Walla Walla has no fireworks restrictions.

Having laws that aren't enforced sends a poor message, particularly to children. It says laws can be broken if we don't agree with them. And it irritates those who call police looking for relief from the bangs and the booms.

City Council needs to rethink its stand on fireworks and work with county and College Place officials to craft fireworks laws that are reasonable and enforceable.

And then local law enforcement officers need to enforce those laws. It's ridiculous to continue pretending most fireworks are banned in Walla Walla.

Let's put some clothes on the emperor.



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