SUMMERVILLE — Fireworks laws might or might not be legal, depending on how they’re written.
In order to charge someone with a violation, police have to be there when the fireworks go off.
But the town of Summerville will take another look at trying to regulate the discharge of personal pyrotechnics after a noisy, midweek Fourth of July.
Councilman Walter Bailey said he’s not usually in favor of “nanny state” government regulations, but the loud displays went on into the night.
“If you have got to get up at 6 (a.m.) to go to work, and some half-wit next door is lighting off M-80s (late at night), there’s got to be some way to make a regulation work,” Bailey said.
Fireworks laws are one of those hobbles of local government. Until last year, they technically weren’t enforceable because state law regulating possession, use and sale of fireworks preempted local laws.
A 2011 addendum to the state law gives municipalities the ability to regulate discharge, according to the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, but not sale or possession.
Local laws also are difficult to enforce because by the time the police officer gets there, it’s usually too late to see or hear if there’s been a violation.
“A misdemeanor (charge) requires officers to see or hear it,” said Summerville Police Chief Bruce Owens. “It’s a little more complicated than it sounds.”
That hasn’t stopped towns from trying. Summerville and Mount Pleasant are among the few Lowcountry towns that don’t have some sort of regulations. In most towns, the laws are meant to deter but usually aren’t enforced.
Summerville last tried, unsuccessfully, in 2005 to establish a fireworks law, with town officials citing safety concerns.
But that was an outright ban. Bailey said he’d like to see a more reasonable regulation.
Mayor Bill Collins said he would look into what other towns are doing and bring back recommendations by the September council meetings.
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