Iowa Discusses Legalizing Fireworks

A bill that legalizes the use of more fireworks has started moving through the Iowa legislature.

Its backers say people are using them anyway, and the state is losing money on the sale of those pyrotechnics.

Just past the Iowa border, in North Sioux City, South Dakota, fireworks shops line Interstate 29.

If you're in the market for bottle rockets, fire crackers, or artillery shells, if you name it, you'll probably find it on fireworks row.

"We have 80 some different artillery shells, different artillery shells," said Lantis Fireworks owner Don Lantis.

Don Lantis says business is good. That's because the competition is pretty slim: in Iowa it's illegal to buy, sell or shoot off most fireworks.

That prohibition means that people from Iowa often cross the border to get their hands on a few fireworks, legally. The problem is, those folks then bring them back into Iowa illegally.

That's why lawmakers are looking to overturn Iowa's 76-year ban on fireworks, hoping to keep the sales tax generated by them in the state.

"It's not going to be the revenue they think they're going to have," Lantis said.

Lantis says the more people selling fireworks, the less business each of them will get, leaving many of those owners without enough money to stay open. He says, ultimately, legalizing fireworks won't bring in the cash lawmakers are hoping for.

"There's only so many people in the United States. You can only divide the pie so many times," said Lantis.

And that's not to mention the hassle the state will go through when it comes to the safety and rules for selling fireworks. Lantis says vendors in Minnesota are selling illegal fireworks because they don't know better, and the state isn't paying attention.

"You can only have fountains, like in Minnesota and stuff like that. They're shooting, I mean not shooting, selling, all the illegal stuff in the stands even though it's not legal in Minnesota. But the people don't know the difference. So if they're going to do it, at least make the laws so they know what they're doing," Lantis said.

The bill now moves on to a full committee in the Iowa Senate.

As for Don Lantis, he's not terribly worried if there's competition across the river in Iowa. He already has the inventory, and he believes having legal fireworks in Iowa would simply mean more customers for him.