JEROME — For nearly 20 years, Bob Thompson has been selling aerial and non-aerial fireworks in Jerome County.
Thompson said an opinion released from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office left many of his customers confused. The opinion released Tuesday said it is illegal for people to buy aerial fireworks in Idaho without a special use permit.
Thompson said he called the Attorney General’s office on Tuesday to confirm Idaho laws hadn’t changed.
The AG’s Office released a clarification Wednesday saying the opinion was a legal analysis requested from a lawmaker and does not change any laws. The state doesn’t prohibit the sale of aerial fireworks, but they are illegal to set off in Idaho.
“My office does not enforce Idaho’s fireworks laws,” the clarification says. “Enforcement is handled by county sheriffs, prosecutors, and city police departments.”
The legal analysis was sent to the lawmaker on June 21 and was made public by the Boise Fire Department on Tuesday, the statement says.
The common practice of selling aerial fireworks has been that buyers can purchase them as long as they promise not to use them in Idaho, the Associated Press reported.
Thompson said before they can buy aerials from his stand, his customers are required to sign a waiver that says the fireworks will be transported out of the state of Idaho. He also requires customers to show proof they are 18 or older to buy any type of fireworks. He operates his Interstate Fireworks stand near Con Paulos Chevrolet in Jerome.
Sales have been slow, but Thompson didn’t blame it on the opinion, though he’s had to field a lot of questions.
“I don’t blame it on that,” he said. “Maybe it’s just the week and Fourth of July is on a Tuesday. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
In 2015, the city of Jerome changed its ordinance banning the sale and possession of certain “dangerous fireworks.” Fireworks sales are limited to temporary fireworks stands, and possession of dangerous fireworks is allowed only with a permit.
“Some law enforcement agencies may agree with the analysis and change their enforcement policies,” the clarification says. “Others may ignore it. I encourage these entities to review it and consult with their respective attorneys on how they should proceed.”
Jerome County Sheriff Doug McFall said he read the opinion but not the clarification sent out Wednesday. Typically, the fire marshal oversees the safety requirements for fireworks stands and the Sheriff’s Office responds to complaints of fireworks, he said.
“Nothing at this point is going to change,” McFall said. “I’d say unless there is come outcry from the public and the county commissioners want to pursue something different than what we’ve done in the past.”
If aerial fireworks were to become illegal, Thompson said, buyers would just go to Wyoming or tribal reservations.
“It’s not going to stop anything,” Thompson said. “We have to change our product line and they have to drive farther.”