HONOLULU (KHON2) — Lawmakers are looking for solutions to Hawaii’s illegal fireworks problem after a booming New Year’s Eve.
A couple of bills introduced in the Legislature focus on inspecting shipping containers in the hopes to curb the flow before the explosives arrive.
Most fireworks were banned from public use on Oahu in 2011, but the booms have not stopped.
“I know this only happens once or twice a year, and what we’ve seen from New Year’s Eve is, it doesn’t seem like there’s a ban, right? With all the illegal aerials going off,” said Sen. Brandon Elefante, who represents Aiea, Halawa and Pearl City.
“It’s pretty amazing, the level of, the concussions, you can feel the concussions as opposed to just hearing them,” said Sen. Karl Rhoads, who represents Nuuanu, Pacific Heights and Downtown.
Sens. Elefante and Rhoads both have bills to increase random inspections on shipping containers at Honolulu’s ports. They both distinguish high- and low-risk containers; Low-risk containers include goods meant to be delivered to military, State or County agencies, as well as businesses that are in good standing. Searches would be streamlined through the Department of Public Safety.
Sen. Rhoads said a package that arrived at Oahu Community Correctional Center in December 2022 was a unique case.
“Well, that one’s different because it came in the mail, so I, you know, it’s, it’s not good,” Sen. Rhoads said.
Sen. Rhoads said the Legislature believes a majority of illegal explosives come through shipping containers, which is why he focused his bill on more inspections and not raising fines.
“I would be very surprised if the poundage coming through the mail is anything approaching what’s coming through the shipping containers,” Sen. Rhoads said, “It’s not like crystal meth or something where you can bring in 2 million dollars in a UPS package. These are bigger physically.”
Elefante’s bill does mention raising fines, which are currently up to $2,000 for 25 pounds or less of fireworks or up to $10,000 for more than 25 pounds. Sens. Elefante and Rhoads both admitted they do not have silver bullets.
“But this is one way, if this bill were to pass, to curtail efforts of illegal fireworks coming into our shores,” Sen. Elefante said.
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“I would be surprised if we could, get it to zero,” Sen. Rhoads said, “To curb it is, I’m confident that we can do that.”