Like any red-blooded American, you expect to light up some fireworks during your upcoming 4th of July celebrations. However, the last thing you want is for your fireworks display to put you in prison.
Fireworks are fun, but because they are dangerous explosions, their sale and use tends to be tightly regulated; failure to adhere to your state laws regarding fireworks could land you with expensive fines and a criminal record.
Therefore, before you start setting off fireworks on July 4th, you should spend some time learning about your state’s fireworks laws. Where are a few details regarding fireworks regulations that you might need to investigate to keep yourself safe this Independence Day.
What Kinds of Fireworks Can You Use?
Different states have differing regulations regarding what kinds of fireworks are available to the general public. You should only buy commercial fireworks — like those used in massive public fireworks displays — if you have a professional fireworks license.
There are a few different certification programs you can complete if you are interested in gaining access to these exclusive fireworks.
Consumer fireworks tend to be smaller than commercial fireworks, but there is outstanding diversity amongst consumer fireworks ensuring that you can put on an amazing show for friends and family.
Still, as many as 15 states also restrict the types of consumer fireworks you can use; most often, states will prohibit the ignition of aerial and explosive fireworks, which can cause damage to a greater area than ground-based fireworks.
Even if you can purchase aerial and explosive fireworks online or in a neighboring state, you should avoid setting them off if they are not permitted where you live.
Fortunately, only one state fully bans all consumer fireworks: Massachusetts. If you live in the Bay State, you will need to look up schedules of professional fireworks displays for 4th of July.
Who Can Buy and Use Fireworks?
Among the most diverse fireworks regulations across the U.S. is the age at which a consumer can acquire fireworks of their own. Considering the danger that fireworks can pose when used improperly, you might expect that fireworks are regulated like alcohol or tobacco, requiring an individual to be at least 18 if not 21 to make purchases and set them off.
While this is true in many states, plenty of states have much more lenient age restrictions on fireworks, allowing teens of 16 to acquire fireworks, with or without adult accompaniment. In fact, some states allow children as young as 12 to make purchases of some firework varieties.
Where Can You Set off Fireworks?
In all 50 states, you can only ignite fireworks on private property when you have the express permission from the landowner. Deploying fireworks in public spaces is generally prohibited; cities would be at fault for any harm caused by fireworks in places like parks or streets, and banning their use is safer for everyone.
If you are a renter, you should ask your landlord about their fireworks policy before July 4th, or you could be subject to serious financial penalties if not eviction.
Fireworks should always be ignited outside. For ground-based fireworks, like fountains, you should look for a location that has at least 30 feet of clearance above and around it, to prevent fire hazards.
For aerial fireworks, like roman candles or rockets, you should try to ensure 100 yards of radius to ensure that falling sparks do not cause damage. Though these safety guidelines are not codified in many states, they are certainly good rules of thumb for your Independence Day fireworks display.
When Are Fireworks Displays Allowed?
There’s a good reason you don’t hear fireworks going off every night of the year: Most states prohibit the use of fireworks except on specific holidays, namely July 4th and New Years Eve.
Though you may be able to use small fireworks like sparklers, snakes, smoke bombs and party poppers whenever you like, you should keep your larger ground-based and aerial fireworks in storage until the right holiday rolls around.
You might also need to watch the clock, as some states designate specific hours when fireworks can go off to prevent loud cracks and whistles from disturbing your neighborhood during the wee hours of the morning.
If fireworks are must-haves for your 4th of July celebration, you need to know how to use them lawfully. Regulations help keep fireworks safe for everyone, so you should know your state’s fireworks laws and abide by them every July 4th.