MERRILLVILLE – Way back when, if you knew someone driving to Florida for part of the winter, you asked them to stop in Tennessee and bring back some fireworks. That was the only way to get your hands on fireworks back then. 

Neither Indiana nor its neighbors allowed the sale of fireworks. Illinois still bans the sale and use of fireworks. That ended in the 1980s when Indiana Republicans got cute – and very greedy – and legalized the sale of fireworks.

To get the naysayers to go along with the sale of fireworks, the new law prohibited the use of fireworks in Indiana even though they were sold in the Hoosier state.

The new law also stipulated that fireworks outlets had to be open year-round. That didn’t work because fireworks companies didn’t want to spend the money to keep their stores open all  year since sales were pretty much limited to the days around the Fourth of July. And, the law wasn’t enforced.

The charade ended in 2006 when Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a bill legalizing the use of fireworks in the state. Daniels got the job done by tacking a 5% tax on the sale of fireworks with the proceeds going to a firefighters training academy. The tax brought in $2.7 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The anti-fireworks people are once again energized for a number of reasons. Scott McKee, a 37-year-old Hebron man was killed this year when a fireworks exploded prematurely. In all of 2017, 238 Hoosiers were injured while using fireworks.

Just a few days ago in Portage, police told complaining residents that they could do little to enforce the law specifying the days and hours fireworks can be used.

With the arrival of August, the illegal discharge of fireworks has slowed. Statute indicates that July 9 is the last day to legally shoot off fireworks until New Year’s Eve. Isn’t it about time that Indiana did the right thing and made the sale of fireworks illegal?

The storefronts along U.S. 30 in Lake County and Interstate 94 in Porter County are closed and are little more than eyesores except for the month leading up to the Fourth of July.

Surely, Indiana – with a surplus of almost $2 billion – can afford to lose the tax money it makes off the sale of fireworks. And the state also can afford to fund its own firefighters training academy.

Rich James has been writing about politics and government for almost 40 years. He is retired from the Post-Tribune, a newspaper born in Gary.