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Not all requests for new, safer laws on the health and safety of Arkansas' citizens are met with warm and fuzzy approval. But the requests still keep coming.

After a recent senseless tragedy in Little Rock, involving some teenagers and fireworks in which several young men had parts of their hands blown up, with fingers missing or mangled and a lifetime of ugly surgical scars covering their hands, a group of trained surgeons approached local state Rep. Charlene Fite, of District 80, about possibly changing the state's antiquated and outdated laws on fireworks.

The surgical group, fresh off trying to reconstruct and repair the irreparable damage done, was wanting tighter laws on fireworks, i.e. age to purchase, types of fireworks sold, and providing even more warning about holding onto such fireworks when lit.

But not all laws, as seen from a safe and secure medical standpoint, curry favor with the Arkansas public.

Rep. Fite did not promise to sponsor such as law without first researching the existing state laws and seeing what other states are doing on fireworks safety. So she began the process of gathering information. She even did a very non-scientific poll on her Facebook page, more on this later.

It is like I have seen this type of legislation before. Ah, yes, remember the motorcycle helmet law requirement of a few legislative sessions ago. Well, more on that later.

These doctors, in a brief sitting with the state representative, outlined their frustration with every holiday involving fireworks.

But in Arkansas, you only have to be 12 years old to buy fireworks. That's right, 12 years old. Most 12-year-olds I know don't even have an identification of any kind, other than a library card or a junior high hall pass.

Other, surrounding states are in a similar situation, according to a quick search by the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research, the firework purchase age requirements from the surrounding states is as follows:

• Louisiana -- 15 years of age;

• Mississippi -- 12 years of age;

• Missouri -- 14 years of age;

• Oklahoma -- 12 years of age;

• Tennessee -- 16 years of age;

• Texas -- 16 years of age.

Based on BLR research, no state specifically requires parental permission to buy fireworks. However, the BLR notes other states like Maine and New Hampshire have firework purchase age requirements of 21 years of age. Some states such as Indiana and Delaware have an age requirement of 18 years of age.

The BLR also informed Rep. Fite that Arkansas has very few laws to protect the liability of consumers against the seller of the fireworks.

It is unclear from the Arkansas and federal laws if a fireworks stand would face any liability for injuries. However, any person may civilly sue a distributor or retailer for injuries related to a product; these types of cases are called products liability cases.

Well, after thinking the issue over, Rep. Fite put the question about changing the fireworks laws for Arkansas on Facebook. The results in the non-scientific poll overwhelmingly were (1) misunderstood and (2) sparked more debates about laws which were not wanted by Arkansas fireworks consumers, despite a few who bravely tried to say that maybe more restrictions would be a good thing to save such tragedies each summer.

Yes, state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, of Rogers, years ago, tried to enact a law to save lives by having all riders on motorcycles in Arkansas wear a helmet.

She had great statistics, expert witnesses and even some families who wished their now-injured loved ones had worn a helmet on their motorcycles, but bikers surrounded the capital, loudly opposed her bill and defeated the measure.

Each year, the United States could save more than $1 billion in economic costs if all motorcyclists wore helmets. Wearing helmets reduces the risk of death by 37% and helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69%.

But not in Arkansas, we ride free of helmets. We blow off fingers and hands with fireworks, too.

Think about it.

• • •

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at maylontrice@yahoo.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 08/28/2019

Print Headline: Best bills, laws do not always have voters' OK

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