The Man Who Stole The Fourth Of July

by Tom Gilsenan

Here’s a column I wrote for the neighborhood newsletter where I live in Des Moines. (Newsletter is called Drake Neighborhood Experience. It has a Facebook page)

Weary of the fireworks in your neighborhood? Boom, boom, boom every night since just after Memorial Day. Turns out it’s going on all around the country. Some of the reasons are similar from one place to another: People have been cooped up, many of the big fireworks shows are canceled, every town has its pyromaniacs.

But if you live in Iowa one big reason for all the explosions is Jake Chapman. He’s a state senator (R-Adel) who ran on a platform of unleashing fireworks in Iowa. In his view, fireworks are part of our freedom.  [italics BFIA’s]

Chapman led a successful drive in the 2017 legislative session to do away with laws restricting the sale of fireworks. So for the first time in a century, what are called consumer fireworks could be sold anywhere in the state. That didn’t change laws restricting the use of fireworks, but cities could no longer prohibit the sale. (Most of Iowa’s cities, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, prohibit the use of fireworks.)

Fireworks boxes from one night

Chapman tried to get a law passed in the 2019 session which would do away with all local ordinances regulating the use of fireworks. He wasn’t successful. But it turns out that didn’t matter. Once able to buy fireworks, people were going to use them — local ban or not.

Cities around Iowa reported hundreds of complaints last year. ‘This issue, fireworks in general, causes more calls to city councils and fire departments than any other,’ observed a lobbyist for the Iowa League of Cities. Despite the local prohibitions, few citations were issued.

This year, there have been even more fireworks reports and they started much earlier. Also, the type of fireworks being exploded is often a higher grade. Some sound like gunshots; some even sound like military explosions. So far, again, few citations.

Chapman is up for reelection this year and starts off his campaign with more than $300,000. Major donors, according to Vote Smart, include: Harold Annett (TMC Trucking Co) $30,000; John M. Smith (CRST Trucking, Cedar Rapids) $25,000; Iowa Association of Realtors $10,000; and Kyle Krause (Kum & Go) $10,000.

Warren Varley, a farmer and attorney, is the Democratic candidate. He is a farmer and attorney and lives in Stuart, Iowa. According to Vote Smart, he has raised $21,000 to date for his campaign.  More on Warren Varley   More on this race


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