Wis. kids try to get novelty lighters banned

PITTSVILLE, Wis. — About two years ago, a group of determined second-graders decided the state needed a new law to protect children.

The students, members of Londa Kuehn’s class at Pittsville Elementary School, wanted to keep novelty lighters — the kind shaped like toys, vehicles and tiny guns — from being sold to children.

Now finishing fourth grade, the students haven’t seen their dream realized of getting the law passed, but they still are hopeful that, with the help of a determined fire chief and some state legislators, it will happen.

Pittsville Fire Chief Jerry Minor said he asked local state representatives to re-introduce the bill, after last year’s session ended before a previous version of the proposal could get a floor vote. Reps. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, and Scott Krug, R-Wisconsin Rapids, are among the legislators who introduced Assembly Bill 83 on April 7, and Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, was a co-sponsor.

“I told them I was not going to give up with this until they throw me out of the Capitol,” Minor said.

The class got the idea after a story in their Weekly Reader publication informed them about the problems the toy-like lighters can cause. The students contacted Minor to help them get a ban on the lighters.

Minor instructed the students to write letters to their legislators, which he sent. The legislators introduced Bill 890, which made it through the committee level, but didn’t get a vote before the session ended.

Children think the lighters are toys to play with, and they end up burning themselves, said McKenna Coulthard, 10, a member of the class.

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