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Fireworks Lobby Succeeds In Keeping Controversial Devices On Store Shelves

Ryan Lessard

Backyard pyrotechnics are a favorite—and legal—way for Granite Staters to celebrate the 4th of July.  And the fireworks lobby—yes, there really is a lobby for everything—has been fighting to not only keep them legal, but to deregulate them.

Two years ago this week in Pelham, a homeowner piled up nearly 350 mortar shells on his deck. And when sparks from a stray spinner landed on them, they exploded and more than a dozen people were injured. In 2011, the legislature had legalized those two types of fireworks.

And some, like Democratic Representative Laura Pantelakos blamed those devices for the accident.

“In Pelham, we can say it was a human error, which it was, but if we had not allowed those things to come into the state it wouldn’t have happened.”

Others, like Bill Weimer, the VP of Phantom Fireworks based in Ohio, say safety instructions weren’t followed. And Phantom poured nearly $7,000 into a lobbying firm to fight legislation this past year that would’ve seen a ban on those devices reinstated.

“Reloadable mortars are one of the most popular single items we sell.”

Phantom Fireworks runs stores in Londonderry, Seabrook and Hinsdale. Weimer estimates sales of reloadable mortars makes up about 15% of their sales nationwide.

“Loading a shell into a mortar, lighting it and then reloading a shell into the mortar—it’s the closest in terms of functionality that you come to duplicating the professional fireworks experience.”

Reloadable mortars have become big business in the fireworks trade.

Christina Katsikas, the owner of Hooksett Fireworks says reloadable mortars are flying off the shelves. And in general business has been good as people prepare for a three-day holiday weekend.

And with legislative regulation a tough sell in New Hampshire, those sales are likely to continue.

Before becoming a reporter for NHPR, Ryan devoted many months interning with The Exchange team, helping to produce their daily talk show. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in Manchester with a major in Politics and Society and a minor in Communication Arts. While in school, he also interned for a DC-based think tank. His interests include science fiction and international relations. Ryan is a life-long Manchester resident.

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