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AGO 1950 No. 287 - June 20, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

"FIREWORKS" -- SALE AND USE OF

Sales of "fireworks," within the meaning of chapter 161, Laws of 1943, are prohibited, except where sold for the purpose of supervised displays, and where the purchasers have complied with the provisions of said act.

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                                                                   June 20, 1950

Honorable Ronald R. Hull
Prosecuting Attorney
Court House
Yakima, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 287

Dear Sir:

            You have by telephone requested our opinion upon the following question:

            "Does chapter 161, Laws of 1943 (§ 5440-30 et. seq. Rem. Supp. '43) prohibit the sale of fireworks to individuals for individual use?"

            The conclusion reached may be summarized as follows:

            Sales of "fireworks", within the meaning of chapter 161, Laws of 1943, are prohibited, except where sold for the purpose of supervised displays, and where the purchasers have complied with the provisions of section 3, chapter 161, Laws of 1943 (§ 5440-32 Rem. Supp. 1943) relative to issuance of permits therefor and section 4, chapter 161, Laws of '43 (§ 5440-33) relative to posting of bonds.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            You have advised us that certain persons in your county desiring to sell "fireworks" (as defined in the 1943 act, supra) to individuals, are contending that the provisions of that act apply only to sales of "fireworks" for public display  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] purposes and that nothing contained therein would prohibit the sale of "fireworks" to individuals who have not first complied with the provisions of the act, so long as the use contemplated by them was other than a public display.  You have stated that you are not in accord with their views.

            An examination of the act compels us to the conclusions, which you have reached, that any such contention is untenable.

            Section 1 of chapter 161, Laws of 1943 (§ 5440-30 Rem. Supp. 1943) for the purposes of this act defines "Fireworks" to include virtually every type of firecracker and pyrotechnic, excepting certain types enumerated in the proviso thereto and with which this opinion is not concerned.

            The other pertinent portions of the act are as follows:

            "It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, co-partnership or corporation or municipality to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, or use or explode any 'fireworks' except as hereinafter provided."  Section 2, chapter 161, Laws of 1943 (§ 5440-31, Rem. Supp. 1943)

            "The Chiefs of Police of incorporated cities and towns, and the Sheriff of the county in areas lying outside of incorporated cities and towns, are hereby authorized to issue permits for supervised display of fireworks by any person, firm, co-partnership [[copartnership]], corporation or municipality in accordance with the provisions of this act.  Application for permits shall be made in writing at least fifteen (15) days in advance of the date of display.  After such permit shall have been granted, sales, possession, use and distribution of fireworks for such display shall be lawful for that purpose only.  No permit granted hereunder shall be transferable.  Every such display shall be handled by a competent operator to be approved by the Chief of Police or Sheriff of the city or of the county in which the display is to be held, and shall be of such a character and so located, discharged and fired as in the opinion of the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Chief of Police or Sheriff, after proper inspection, shall not be hazardous to property or endanger any person or persons."  Section 3, chapter 161, Laws of 1943 (§ 5440-32 Rem. 1949 Supp.)  (Italics supplied)

            "The Chief of Police or Sheriff, as the case may be, before issuing any license, shall require a surety bond deemed adequate and subject to the approval of the officer issuing the permit from the licensee conditioned for the payment of all damages which may be caused either to person or persons or to property by reason of the licensed display and arising from any acts of the licensee, his agents, employees or subcontractors.  Said bond shall run to the city, town or county in which said license is issued for the use and benefit of any person, firm, co-partnership [[copartnership]], corporation or municipality having a cause of action against the obligor of said bond under the provisions of this act."  Section 4, chapter 161, Laws of '43 (§ 5440-33 Rem. 1949 Supp.)

            It is our opinion that section 2 constitutes an express and absolute prohibition applying to all alike, against the offer or exposure for sale, retail sale, or use or explosion of any "fireworks" except as provided in the next two sections (sec. 3 and sec. 4 of said act) which authorize supervised displays, and that by including in the act these next two sections, the legislature has permitted a relaxation of the express prohibition by establishing and providing for the compliance with certain conditions designed to safeguard and to indemnify the public from and against any damage which might result from the use of such fireworks.

            In expressing this thought the legislature has used clear and unambiguous language, leaving no room for the application of the principles of statutory interpretation.  If further proof of the legislative intent be needed it is to be found in the language of section 5 of said act as follows:

            "Nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit any resident, wholesaler,dealer or jobber to sell at wholesale or retail such fireworks as are not herein  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] expressly prohibited; or sale of any kind of fireworksprovided the same are to be shipped directly out of the state; * * *" Section 5, chapter 161, Laws of 1943 (§ 5440-34 Rem. 1949 Supp.)

            To summarize, our conclusion is that:

            Fireworks other than those mentioned in the proviso to section 1 of the act (§ 5440-30) may not be offered or exposed for sale, sold, or used unless the purchaser, regardless of entity has first complied with the provisions of section 3 & 4 of the 1943 act (§ 5440-32, 5440-33, Rem. Supp. 1943) and then such permits may only be issued for the purpose of displays which are supervised by a competent and approved operator; and are of such a character and are so located, discharged and fired as in the opinion of the issuing officer after proper inspection will not be hazardous to property or endanger any persons.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

RICHARD OTIS WHITE
Assistant Attorney General

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