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State law trumps sheriff's request for stricter fireworks regulations

Clerks Cobus Swanepoeo, left, and Brooke Brandon pack up fireworks for a customer at Red Rocket Fireworks on U.S. 21 in Fort Mill on Wednesday. Fireworks stores, especially those close to the North Carolina border, are busy this time of year.
Clerks Cobus Swanepoeo, left, and Brooke Brandon pack up fireworks for a customer at Red Rocket Fireworks on U.S. 21 in Fort Mill on Wednesday. Fireworks stores, especially those close to the North Carolina border, are busy this time of year.

With the Fourth of July less than a week away, York County fireworks stores are cashing in on sales from customers eager to light up the skies.

But a push by Sheriff Bruce Bryant to stop some of the shenanigans got derailed before the first big bursts begin.

Bryant had asked the York County Council to pass stricter fireworks rules targeted at the Carowinds Boulevard area and its abundance of state-line fireworks stands.

The ordinance would have outlawed shooting fireworks in store parking lots or without permission from landowners on personal property. It also would have banned setting them off during certain times of the day.

Trouble was, such rules are unconstitutional. The state sets fireworks law, not local governments. And the laws must apply statewide.

"The fireworks industry would have a heckuva time dealing with 266 municipalities and 46 counties," said Tom Elliott, who represents the Fireworks Dealers Association. "You'd never get through with it."

Police can arrest rowdy firework-shooters for noise violations and other applicable laws, Elliott said. Just don't try to outlaw where and when fireworks can be shot off.

"If somebody's disturbing the peace, doing it in a parking lot or the street, you've got other laws on the books you can get them for," he said.

The county's attorney discovered Bryant's idea wasn't going to work, and the ordinance was dropped. Sheriff's Office staff attorney Kristie Jordan couldn't be reached on Thursday.

Still, deputies are planning extra patrols in the area during Fourth of July celebrations. The Sheriff's Office will detail its plans in an announcement today, Capt. Allen Brandon said. County leaders have complained about North Carolinians driving across the state line and shooting off fireworks in the parking lots of stores there. Bryant's proposed ordinance was an attempt to reduce the problem.

Professional fireworks shows such as Carowinds' annual display would not have been affected.

Bryant was at a conference in Utah and could not be reached Thursday.

County Council Chairman Buddy Motz said he didn't know how big of a problem it was, but the council wanted to do what it could to help.

"The only fireworks I've seen have been at the council meetings," he said.

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