Fireworks ban bills move forward

Rep. Roy Takumi
Rep. Roy Takumi
Joannie Tam
Joannie Tam

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HAWAII STATE CAPITOL (KHNL) -  The battle over fireworks in Hawaii heats up. Two bills looking to ban non-commercial fireworks in our state, passed first reading last week.  They are now in the hands of several committee chairs this week.  But many in the Chinese community say their culture is being targeted.

The "Year of the Ox" stormed in with a bang, but next year's celebration could be a lot quieter if a fireworks ban bill becomes law.

"We've been getting e-mails and calls not only from my district, but from all over the state, primarily from Oahu," said Rep. Roy Takumi, D-Pearl City, Momilani, Pacific Palisades.  "That this is an issue they want some resolution to."

Rep. Takumi introduced two bills that would outlaw non-commercial fireworks.  The first one (HB 397) would ban "all fireworks in counties with a population of more than 500,000 persons" -- or ban it only on Oahu -- and leave the issue up to neighbor island counties.

The second bill (HB 398) would provide "for a statewide ban of consumer fireworks (firecrackers)."

Folks like Joannie Tam says this is a bad idea because fireworks are an important part of Chinese culture.

"This has been tradition for thousands of years, and every month, every year, we expect this to happen because it brings us good luck," said Tam, president of the Hawaii Chinese Association.

But Takumi says fireworks spark health and safety concerns.

"I think historically the law enforcement communities have been concerned, obviously from a public safety point of view and health organizations have been concerned from a health point of view," he said. "But a growing number of people in the community are just concerned simply because it's almost a peace and quiet issue."

Tam hopes lawmakers can find a middle ground so folks can enjoy fireworks safely.

Otherwise, "then Chinatown won't be Chinatown anymore," she said.  "And Chinese would not be celebrating our culture. It's always been years and years, our generations and children have been brought up and I think we're going to lose that touch."

A battle to balance a cultural heritage for some with the health and safety of all.

Both bills have been referred to three committees: public safety; judiciary; and tourism, culture and international affairs.  The chairs will decide whether or not the bills will move forward.