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Ed Gillespie calls for ‘consumer-grade’ fireworks in new ad; Northam responds

RICHMOND, Va. -- In a campaign ad posted to the internet Friday, Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for Governor in Virginia, suggested the fireworks allowed in the Commonwealth could use some more horsepower.

"Here in Virginia our fireworks are pretty rinky dink," Gillespie said in the ad. "Virginia, we're missing out on being able to create thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue."

In the new campaign video, Gillespie pointed out that in neighboring West Virginia and Tennessee, people can buy what's called "consumer-grade" fireworks, and he said he wants to make them legal in Virginia too.

"We have Virginians right now that are going into Tennessee and West Virginia and buying fireworks, and they're spending dollars there," Gillespie said.

Virginia currently bans consumer-grade fireworks, which typically fly high into the air and resemble a smaller version of what you might see at a fireworks show.

Yet Frank Hall, who owns Big Blast Fireworks in Mechanicsville said people clearly want them, even though he follows the law.

"I know everybody that comes up to my stand says ‘do you got any of the illegal stuff?’" Hall said.

But not everyone supports the idea, including the state Fire Marshal, and other top safety officials.

Chesterfield County's Fire Marshal Robby Dawson said Gillespie's video announcement caught him off guard.

"A little bit disturbing, it's kind of concerning that it is a safety issue and the first I heard about it was from you guys," Dawson said.

Dawson and other fire officials we talked to oppose legalizing the larger fireworks in Virginia.

"When that aerial firework goes into the woods, now we've got a woods fire or lands on your neighbor's roof now your neighbor's house is at risk," Dawson said.

We asked Gillespie about their concerns.

Ed Gillespie

"I just talked to the state Fire Marshal, I also talked to some other fire officials, all of them said they are against allowing consumer grade fireworks in the state of Virginia. These are our top safety officials so what can you say to their concerns about safety?" CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Gillespie.

"I respect them and we're going to take their concerns into account want to work with them to make sure we're doing this in a way that is safe and responsible," Gillespie responded.

A spokesperson for Gillespie's opponent, Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, sent us the following statement in response to Gillespie's campaign ad.

"Dr. Northam likes fireworks as much as anyone, but he also wants to make sure you can afford health care in case you accidentally blow your hand off with one. We'd like to know if Ed believes the Republicans' healthcare plans will actually allow for that."