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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

June 29, 2009

Remarks for Joseph Riehl Acting Assistant Director Enforcement Programs and Services Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Annual Fireworks Safety Press Conference and Demonstration National Mall

Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Tenebaum, and CPSC for sponsoring this event which brings us together to highlight the importance of fireworks safety, the potential dangers of the use of illegal explosive devices and to inform consumers of the casualties that can happen with the improper use of fireworks.

ATF partners with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, DOJ, DHS, the U.S. Department of Transportation, state and local fire service and law enforcement agencies to protect our citizens from the dangers of illegal explosive devices and to keep Americans safe during our nation’s Independence Day celebrations.

There’s nothing more American than gathering with family and friends to delight in the beauty of fireworks against the night sky on the Fourth of July. But there is also a common responsibility if you use fireworks. We want to remind consumers to be aware of the products they are buying, and to be careful about how they use them. If consumers choose to set fireworks off, they should make sure they know and adhere to the state and local laws, regulations, and ordnances in their areas.

There are many legitimate fireworks manufacturers who are operating safely and within the law to bring you products that, when used correctly, are designed to bring fun and excitement to the celebration. ATF works closely with these manufacturers, and every possible precaution is taken to ensure not only your personal safety, but also the safety of the workers who produce them and the communities in which they are produced or used.

Unfortunately, there are many illegal fireworks manufacturers. They operate outside the law. Illegal fireworks may be sold from the same roadside stands that sell consumer fireworks. It is an unfortunate fact that every Fourth of July people are injured, sometimes maimed, or lose their lives, when something goes wrong using illegal fireworks or explosive devices. That is why it is so important for consumers to know what to look for.

Legal fireworks are marked with brightly colored paper and include a trade name and manufacturing information. Illegal explosive devices – commonly referred to as M-80s, quarter sticks, or cherry bombs –often come in plain brown or white wrappers, with no identifying marks. Because they meet neither safety nor quality standards, they are extremely dangerous even when they aren’t deliberately misused. They can be highly unstable because heat, shock, or pressure can trigger accidental detonation.

When consumers buy these products, they have no idea how dangerous they are. ATF has investigated instances in which illegal makers have died or were seriously injured while making or handling them.

Not only are illegal explosive devices sold to unwary citizens, they are often produced in a manner which poses a severe threat to our local communities. Illicit manufacturing operations are frequently set up in garages in otherwise quiet neighborhoods, posing a deadly threat of explosion and fire to a community.

Make no mistake, ATF and other law enforcement agencies are committed to finding and stopping these illegal manufacturers. If you become aware of an illegal manufacturing operation, please report it immediately to local law enforcement or to ATF.

Remember, WE work together for your safety. Whether you gather at your home or at a public fireworks display, we want you to have a safe Fourth!

Thank you.

See below caption

CPSC photo - National Mall Event, 6/30/09.

From Left: Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice
Dan Baldwin, Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade for Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security
Inez Tenenbaum, Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Joseph Riehl, Acting Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services, ATF, DOJ