Des Moines City Council Votes on Fireworks Restrictions

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DES MOINES, Iowa  -- The debate over allowing fireworks within Des Moines city limits got heated on Monday night.

State lawmakers legalized fireworks earlier this year. They let city councils decide whether to allow them to be shot off, and on Monday night the decision was made for Des Moines. Most of the speakers favored an outright ban in the capitol city.

"My uncle was in the military, and after three tours he came back and he couldn't stand fireworks, they set off his PTSS," said veteran Kenneth Tapper.

"We also have a whole class of children who are autistic who are extremely vulnerable to these kinds of sounds, and it causes a lot of trauma in these children," said Des Moines resident Cherie Mortice.

To minimize some of those concerns, council members considered a motion to allow the use of fireworks for just six hours on July 4th between 4-10 p.m. Anyone caught using fireworks outside those hours would face a $625 fine. Other restrictions in the motion included a ban on fireworks at public parks and cemeteries, a ban within 200 yards of a senior center or hospital, and only allowing those 18 years and older to use fireworks.

"I don't see anything good to come out of it. I think the safety issue is really problematic," said council member Christine Hensley.

"We have a ban on firing fireworks in the city and obviously nobody is paying any attention to it, so if we said let's opt out, do you think anybody is going to listen to that? I don't think so," said Bill Gray, also on the city council.

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said, "I don't think it's good policy, I don't think it's good governance, and I don't think it protects the best interests of the citizens of our city."

"I've had plenty of emails that would like me to do this, a lot more than wanting to opt out," said Joe Gatto of the city council. In response, Mayor Cownie replied, "I hope you're able to say 'I'm sorry' to every kid that gets a finger blown off," to which Gatto said that still occurs now.

Following debate, council members voted on the six-hour proposal and restrictions. Mayor Cownie did not like the 4-3 outcome in favor of allowing fireworks with the aforementioned regulations. He was opposed to allowing fireworks, along with council members Hensley and Westergaard.

Council members Coleman, Gatto, Moore, and Gray all voted in favor of allowing fireworks.