On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays is marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country.
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It's the busy season at Galaxy fireworks in Tampa. Cash registers are singing, as customers pack the aisles looking for bigger, brighter, louder fireworks displays.
Technically, it's not legal to buy many of the fireworks sold. Fireworks stores require customers to sign a verification statement showing they intend to comply with Florida law.
At Galaxy, the verification statement requires purchasers to acknowledge they have reviewed Florida law section 791.04 and 791.07. Few customers know what that part of the statute contains.
In part the law reads; "Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit: the use of fireworks by railroads or other transportation agencies for signal purposes or illumination or when used in quarrying or for blasting or other industrial use, or the sale or use of blank cartridges for a show or theater, or for signal or ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports, or for use by military organizations."
Since few people will be using fireworks on the 4th of July for railroads, farms or quarries, the "ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports" wording in the law is what Galaxy President Sharon Hunnewell-Johnson says is the exemption that applies to most people.
"We don't think anybody is lying. We ask them to sign the verification form and they abide the law and it says what the law is," said Hunnewell-Johnson.
Florida Legislator Amanda Murphy says it's a law that has been on the books for many years and needs a fresh look.
"It is just one of those statutes and we probably have many that have fallen through the cracks and never been updated," said Murphy.
Florida lawmakers considered making a change to the law last year, but a bill died before it made it out of a committee. Hunnewell-Johnson doesn't believe there should be a change to state law.
"The problem with trying to get it tweaked is, you can't get everybody on the same page," she said.
So just remember, if you intend to set off fireworks in Florida that explode into the sky, consider having a foot race, or other athletic competition before you light the fuse.
Those fireworks are for "ceremonial purposes" at an athletic event.
Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.
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