With Fourth of July just a few weeks away, people across the country are stocking up on fireworks. It wouldn't be summer without some good old-fashion 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 Fourth 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).
In 2018, 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 WCVB5.
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 residents are arguing that their state should change its outright ban on fireworks. In a poll put out by the Arlington Patch, Massachusetts readers stated why the law should change. "Yes, since everyone buys them in [New Hampshire] and light them off here anyway. Might as well get the tax dollars," said a Woburn reader. Another reader from Marlborough added, "Yes, let people make their own choices about them. Cigarettes are legal, alcohol is legal. I think more people are probably harmed by drunk drivers a year than those who injure themselves with fireworks in the states that already allow them."
Other states that previously banned fireworks have changed their stance, like Iowa, for example, 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 2016 calendar year, an estimated 11,100 injuries related to fireworks were treated in U.S. emergency rooms, according to the 2016 Fireworks Annual Report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The report notes that of those 11,100 injuries, children under the age of 15 accounted for 31 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 4th fireworks, because you want them to stay safe while they're having fun.