McFeely: Not so fast on legalizing fireworks in Fargo

If there's a push to make fireworks legal in the city limits of Fargo for the Fourth of July, those doing the pushing better do it harder.Here's hoping they don't, but first things first.At least two city commissioners say they haven't heard anyt...


If there's a push to make fireworks legal in the city limits of Fargo for the Fourth of July, those doing the pushing better do it harder.

Here's hoping they don't, but first things first.

At least two city commissioners say they haven't heard anything from anybody, constituents or city officials, regarding a petition to legalize fireworks in Fargo. Memory Fireworks owner Ron Knutson started a petition in his stores prior to the Independence Day holiday that urged Fargo to adopt a law similar to West Fargo's, which allows fireworks on private property.

Knutson's thinking is that legalizing fireworks in the city will make it easier for families to plan celebrations and it will remove the onus of doing something illegal for hundreds of people who have chosen to do something illegal. His goal is to get something in place by New Year's Eve, which has become another big sales holiday for fireworks dealers.

Commissioners Tony Grindberg and John Strand, though, hadn't heard anything about the petition when contacted Thursday, July 6. It's early in the process, and just coming off a long holiday weekend, so maybe that's not surprising. But it does show the undertaking has a ways to go if it's to get off the ground.


"I haven't heard anything about it, so I don't have an opinion one way or the other," Grindberg said. "Although it does seem like everybody's doing it anyway. Maybe it's a case of 'it's not broke, don't fix it.' But I can't make any kind of determination until I know more."

Strand said pretty much the same thing, also declining to take a stance before gathering more information.

"I'm not hearing anything from anybody about it. I haven't received one email, phone call, letter. Nothing," he said.

It is true that Fargoans who want to shoot off fireworks illegally do so with almost zero risk of being fined for breaking the law. It's the same in Moorhead and the lakes country of Minnesota, where the barrage of illegal aerial fireworks around some lakes falls into the category of "shock and awe." People have chosen to ignore the law, and police departments have chosen to not enforce it, for the most part, instead focusing resources on more important areas.

That's reason enough for Fargo City Commissioner Tony Gehrig to support legalization.

"The law should change to allow it like (West Fargo) because frankly folks, the people have made it clear they want to," Gehrig wrote on Facebook. "We don't enforce the current law because it would be impossible. So why not have a common sense enforceable ordinance that allows fireworks for a limited time?"

The problem with Gehrig's stance is that it doesn't take into account the hundreds (thousands?) of Fargoans who have no interest in legalizing fireworks. Fargo police say they get hundreds of complaint calls on July 4 and the days surrounding it. We can logically say people make those calls because they are annoyed by fireworks noise and the lack of courtesy shown by people shooting them off.

Legalizing fireworks will do nothing to help those problems and might actually exacerbate them. More fireworks equals more noise. More noise equals more annoyance. "Well, everybody's doing it anyway" isn't a good enough answer for those opposed to fireworks.


The city needs to explore all its options - including stronger enforcement of the current law - before legalizing fireworks in Fargo.

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