From the first time the night skies over Indiana were illuminated by exploding fireworks, cities and towns across the state have been struggling to enact a system of codes that would permit residents to enjoy the experience while at the same time respecting the privacy of their neighbors.
Occasionally, the Indiana General Assembly has gotten into the act, passing legislation intended primarily to clear up any confusion created by earlier ordinances. The result inevitably has been to create more confusion.
One would have thought that the legislature had achieved the ultimate in zaniness with the law that required Hoosiers buying “illegal” fireworks in the state to sign a document by which they agreed to either transport the missiles out of the state within five days or set them off at preapproved sites. Obviously, that became a national joke. Hoosiers by the tens of thousands happily and loudly broke the law.
Presumably, sanity returned to the General Assembly in 2006 when the “Sign but don’t tell” law was scrapped in favor of one that essentially made all fireworks legal and gave pyrotechnic fans the leeway to set them off on just about any day or night of the year.
Several cities and counties had taken their own steps to give their residents some peace and quiet. For example, Columbus had an ordinance in place that prohibited setting off the old “illegal fireworks” at any time, permitting instead much tamer explosives such as those that caused smoke and small noises or were sparkler-like. The far less restrictive state law only added more confusion to the issue, and police essentially stopped enforcing fireworks laws until recently.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to enforce.
For instance, people are free to set off the devices until 11 at night — just about any night. For certain holidays the light shows are permitted until midnight.
That’s ridiculous. Especially on a school night, 11 p.m. is entirely too late to be lighting up the sky and jarring people out of any sleep they might have been enjoying.
While our state lawmakers are apparently sound sleepers, local municipalities do have an opportunity to provide their constituents with some much needed peace and quiet. City councils, for instance, could consider whether to adopt stricter rules than what is allowed under the state statute.
While it would certainly help for a council to take such a position, it would not seem to be that great an imposition on residents to cease and desist in the pyrotechnics by at least 9 p.m. It might also be nice to give neighbors a heads-up that a fireworks show is on tap in the neighborhood.
Who knows, there might even be some neighbors who would appreciate advance word so they can watch from their own backyards.