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Check your fireworks, they may be illegal
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Illegal fireworks confiscated in 2005 in Bulloch County were blown upon the law enforcement firing range on 301 North. - photo by JAKE HALLMAN/staff/file
A rule of thumb for New Year's Eve festivities: if it goes "bang" or "kaboom," it's likely illegal.
    Those flaming fun novelties found in Georgia's retail stores aren't truly fireworks, but are considered "sparklers," said Statesboro Police Major J. R. Holloway.
    They're OK to use when ringing in the New Year, but beware of setting off real fireworks, he said. It's those noisemakers that actually explode, and can only be purchased outside of Georgia, that are illegal in the state.
    Both the Statesboro Police Department and the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department will have officers patrolling, watching and listening for illegal fireworks. Besides being dangerous and banned in Georgia, use of the recreational explosives could result in a hefty fine or a night or two in jail.
    Although setting off fireworks is a tradition that has long been observed in spite of the law, "they're still illegal, and we're still going to be on patrol," Holloway said. "That's the business we're in, is to deter illegal activities."
    "Use of fireworks are illegal in the state of Georgia and using them can land you in jail," said Bulloch County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Gene McDaniel. If someone is found using them,"the fireworks will be seized and (offenders) will be placed under arrest. I'd sure hate to spend the first day of the new year in  the Bulloch County Jail."
    In the city, violating the fireworks prohibited ordinance means a $660 fine. In the county, it means a mandatory court appearance where a judge will assign a punishment.
     "The sale and individual use of any type of fireworks, except certain kinds of sparklers, is illegal in Georgia," said Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John W. Oxendine .  "The penalties are a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to one year in jail."
      Professional fireworks displays are permitted, provided they are licensed through the local judge of probate court, he said.
    Although fireworks are illegal in Georgia, many people travel across state lines and purchase them anyway, McDaniel acknowledged.  "If you absolutely have to use them, do it safely," he said. "It is a fact that people use fireworks, and  there's nothing we can do (besides arrest offenders when caught)."
    And many offenders do get caught, Holloway said. "If you don't want to have trouble with the police,  don't shoot off fireworks."
    “It’s traditional to celebrate the coming of the New Year with fireworks,” Oxendine said. “I urge our citizens to enjoy them safely by watching a professional display as they mark the arrival of 2007.”
    What makes a firework a firework, and how are the illegal ones different from  the items sold legally in Georgia?
    "If it goes 'kaboom,' and explodes, it is illegal," he said.
    "If it goes boom, or explodes, it's a fireworks," McDaniel said. "It can make noise and show light, but anything that explodes is illegal."
    While fireworks and even the legal sparklers can be dangerous, McDaniel is also concerned about revelers firing weapons as the clock strikes midnight New Year's Eve.
    "Be reminded doing so is dangerous and people can get hurt," he said. "Those bullets will come down somewhere."
    Both he and Holloway echoed Oxendine's statements urging citizens to celebrate safely and legally.

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