With Fourth of July just around the corner, people across the country are stocking up on fireworks. It wouldn't be summer without some good old-fashioned celebrating of our stars and stripes. Whether you like sparklers, fountains, or bottle rockets, you're probably wondering if you can light fireworks in your backyard. The answer to that depends on what state you live in, and what kind of pyrotechnic show you have in mind.
If you're like me, no 4th of July is complete without some sparkler action. The handheld sticks were magical when I was a kid, and now I love seeing my own kids' eyes light up when they see the white sparkles trace through the night. It never gets old writing your name with a sparkling wand. Fortunately, sparklers are legal in all states, with the exception of Massachusetts, which bans all consumer fireworks, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) and its recently updated map of State Fireworks Control Laws.
In 2020, 49 states and the District of Columbia allow some or all consumer fireworks, explained the APA. However, laws vary widely from state to state, so you'll want to check here on what exactly is allowed in your state. For example, in Ohio, fireworks can be bought there but not used there, unless they are considered novelty fireworks, according to the APA.
A novelty firework is defined by the APA as "a device containing small amounts of pyrotechnic and/or explosive composition but does not fall under the category of consumer fireworks. Such devices produce limited visible or audible effects. Examples are snakes, tanks, poppers, and snappers."
Other states are far less restrictive when it comes to putting on your own personal light show. Wyoming, for example, doesn't specifically prohibit any type of consumer firework, according to the APA. It does make sense that states with denser populations, like Massachusetts, would have stricter rules on fireworks than a state like Wyoming, which is the least populous state in the nation.
However, Massachusetts does allow what the APA calls “display” fireworks — as long as you have a permit, apply to the local fire chief at least 15 days before the display date, and have certificate of liability insurance for $1,000,000 and bond for $15,000. You must also have a state license — which is valid for two years. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) website also noted that “display” fireworks are the fireworks used in shows and are “generally under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnician.”
Other states that previously banned fireworks have changed their stance, like Iowa, which lifted a 76-year ban on fireworks in 2017, according to CBS Minnesota. "Iowa lawmakers were prodded to end the ban by polls showing support for legalizing fireworks, the prospect of $1.5 million annually in sales tax revenue and the conclusion that if 43 other states allowed consumer fireworks, Iowa should join in," explained the same CBS Minnesota article.
No matter what your Independence Day plans are, it's important to practice firework safety. During the 2019 calendar year, an estimated 9,100 injuries related to fireworks were treated in U.S. emergency rooms, according to the 2019 Fireworks Annual Report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The report notes that of those injuries, children under the age of 15 accounted for 36 percent of them.
To help protect your children this Fourth, follow these sparkler tips from the American Pyrotechnic Safety and Education Foundation, and watch this video from Professor Sparks with your children. It will help give you a little peace of mind knowing that your kids are aware of the potential dangers of July 4 fireworks.
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