Regulation

Pyro Power

No more rockets' red glare?

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The art of amateur pyrotechnics may be in danger, thanks to some recent meddling by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Back in November the CPSC hit Firefox, an Idaho-based pyro supply company, with a civil complaint. If upheld by the U.S. District Court, the ruling would prevent the company from selling several explosive precursors and tools in any amount and various others in amounts over a government-set limit. Only those with a manufacturing license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives would be able to make the prohibited purchases.

Firefox attorney Doug Mawhorr has filed a motion to dismiss. He argues that the CPSC has no proof the company was aware its products, which are not themselves explosive,? were or are being used to make illegal explosives. There are many legal uses, including explosive ones, for what Firefox sold. As long as those explosives are for personal use, not resale, Mawhorr denies that they qualify as consumer products under CPSC jurisdiction.

Other pyro supply companies have reported recent visits from CPSC officials, including Harry Gilliam of Skylighter Inc., who wrote in a January issue of his company newsletter that if the CPSC wins, "pyrotechnic chemicals and supplies vendors would disappear" and "your ability to make fireworks would grind to a halt once your supplies ran out."

There aren't enough licensed hobbyists, the argument goes, to keep the suppliers in business, and the hassles of getting and keeping a license will be too prohibitive to maintain a market. As Tom Handel, vice president of the Pyrotechnics Guild International, wrote in an issue of American Fireworks News, "It is time for amateur pyrotechnists to stand up and be counted." What could be more American than using fuel, oxidizer, and a fuse to make a loud, smoky, or colorful explosion, or to propel a rocket into the sky?