Which Fireworks Are Banned In My State And Where I Can Light Off The Good Stuff?

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth and continued independence of these fifty, nifty United States of America, almost all of which have very different, very specific fireworks laws. So before you go lighting that fuse in remembrance of our founding folks, it couldn’t hurt to learn whether or not you’ll get in trouble for lighting off that really expensive fireworks package you bought at South of the Border during your drive to Disney World — or even that sparkler you picked up at a convenience store the other day.

Yes, four states — Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York — actually ban the sale and use of all consumer fireworks. That includes the sparkler you intended to use to take an adorable photo of your youngster in his Thomas Jefferson costume.

Four other states — Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Vermont — allow sparklers, but not much else.

As for the remaining 42 states and Washington, D.C., the laws vary wildly.

The folks at the American Pyrotechnics Association have incredibly handy PDFs for the specific regulations in each of the 50 states and D.C.

Some states are incredibly specific, like Louisiana which goes to great length to detail what is prohibited in the Pelican State:

Cherry bombs, tubular salutes, 2″” American made salutes, firecrackers exceeding 1.5″ ”in length or .25″” in diameter, repeating bombs, aerial bombs, torpedoes exceeding 3/8″” in diameter, roman candles larger than 10″ ball, and sky rockets with a casing of less than 5/8″” in diameter and less than 2-7/8″” in length, with an overall length of 15””.

On the other end of the spectrum are the minimalists — at least when it comes to fireworks bans. Like Alaska, which does specify some things that are allowed, including “Roman candles, skyrockets, helicopter rockets, cylindrical and cone fountains,” but where the specifically prohibited items are detailed as, “All fireworks that are not defined as salable consumer fireworks.”

And in spite of what you see in the mail-order catalogs and what your crazy uncle always seems to say is perfectly legal to light off — some things are indeed off-limits to consumers.

For that information, there is the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which cites the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 16, Part 1500.17(a)(3) and Part 1500.17(a)(8) in setting federal limits on fireworks sold for consumer use.

These rules limit firecrackers and other ground devices, to 50 mg. of powder “designed to produce an audible effect.” This means that items like cherry bombs and M-80’s, both of which exceed this limit, are not allowed. For aerial consumer fireworks, the limit goes up to 130 mg (2 grains) of powder.

Oh — before you snatch up one of those DIY fireworks kits intended to skirt these regulations, you should know that those are likely against the law as well.

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  1. RvLeshrac says:

    I heartily encourage every single individual who would purchase a “DIY fireworks kit” to go out and do so. As a matter of fact, you should buy at least a dozen, and store them under your heater.

    • raydeebug says:

      Yeah. I know enough about fireworks to know that I have absolutely no business trying to make my own without experienced supervision of someone who has been in the trade for a decade or two.

      And for those who think “I can follow a recipe for cookies, surely I can follow a recipe for fireworks.” … Um. Yeah. When you mess up on cookies, do they explode?!

      (if they do … I want that recipe!)

      • EarlNowak says:

        Ever made Swedish Lemon Angels?

        • Fishnoise says:

          I posted the Swedish Lemon Angels recipe at my old job for a while, but no one ever tried to make them.

      • A.Mercer says:

        I remember finding an old boy scout manual from like the 50’s that had details about how to make fireworks. It was just a general description but it did have details about how to add color to the fireworks by adding different chemicals. I remember reading it and thinking that it gave enough detail for someone to figure it out but not nearly enough detail for someone to safely do it.

      • LEDZEPPELIN24 says:

        What do you mean by *explode*?

    • Sarek says:

      While you’re juggling all your fireworks when lighting them, you can temporarily hold them with your legs squeezed together. This has the advantage of providing Darwinian improvements.

  2. raydeebug says:

    My coworkers and I were talking about fireworks displays a week or so back, and my boss mentioned a display he saw a few years ago–one of those get-ups where a barge in the middle of a lake shoots the fireworks and people gawk from the shore.

    With a sort of deadpan expression, he commented, “Then the barge blew up.”

    I started laughing. Seconds later, he added “And someone died.” I have never choked off a giggle so quickly in my life.

    • Billy C says:

      I probably would have continued laughing. But while choking out “I’m sorry, I know that’s sad but…”

  3. BugBlatterBeast says:

    Oh, wow, the APA’s listings are not up to date. I know at least 1, Nebraska, was revised over a year ago and has not yet been updated on the APA’s site.

    Be warned! Check with the official state website.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    In Connecticut, it is illegal to offer for sale, sell at retail, use, or explode fireworks.

    Only sparklers are legal in the State of Connecticut. Sparklers are NON-EXPLOSIVE, NON-AERIAL devices that contain less than 100 grams of pyrotechnic mixture. Sparklers can only be legally used in Connecticut by person age 16 or older.

    Novelty items such as party poppers, snakes, smoke devices and anything that emits a flame are not legal for private use in Connecticut.

    • mergatroy6 says:

      I was at a Target in Stratford a few weeks ago. They were selling sparklers, large bottle rockets, and those racing cars/tanks all in a big package for $10. They even had some larger stand alone cakes for $10.

      The NY’er in me was very tempted to buy one of everything and bring it home.

    • elangomatt says:

      Jeez and I thought that Illinois was bad. At least we can have the party poppers, snakes, and smoke devices. Of course this is the time of year when they set up “Safety Checkpoints” on the Illinois/Indiana border since you can pretty much buy any kind of fireworks in Indiana. They really just want to check for people bringing illegal fireworks over the border though.

      • raydeebug says:

        Cinder-Snakes are banned in some HOA-ruled neighborhoods because of the burn marks they leave on concrete. Those things seem to last forever.

        It’d be fun to burn a whole bunch of snakes in an interesting pattern.

      • MrEvil says:

        They might have them on the Missouri side of the state too. I usually always buy some Fireworks on my way home to Texas when I go to my mom’s in Missouri. Those year-round Fireworks Megastores are too tempting to pass up.

      • humphrmi says:

        Illinois varies widely on enforcement though. In Des Plaines, it was well known that the cops couldn’t search your trunk unless (A) you left it open, or (B) you gave them permission. So the process was; open trunk, take out firework, close trunk, set off firework. In Stone Park the cops would only come by if they forgot to give you a receipt for the fireworks they sold you. I’m sure the State Troopers could do whatever the hell they wanted to, as is normal for them.

    • HFC says:

      Why would anyone over 15 want a sparkler? They are one of the most boring, yet dangerous, pyrotechnic items around. I can understand little kids wanting to have them, but not teenagers or adults. Of course, little kids can easily kill themselves and/or burn down their house with them.

    • scoosdad says:

      Blueskylaw, is that a recent change in CT? I know I’ve been out shopping with my friends in Fairfield county and have seen fireworks openly for sale in the past (but not recently, haven’t been down there and gone shopping with them in awhile), and mergatroy6 mentions seeing them for sale in the Stratford Target. Or maybe it depends on the locality in CT?

      • Blueskylaw says:

        That is straight from the state website and I believe has been law for as long as I can remember. I can’t understand how every other store in the state seels these things yet it is illegal to use them. Reminds me of dorm room living. The university stated you can’t have candles in your room, yet the bookstore had a huge selection of candles.

    • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

      Wow, you can’t even have Christmas crackers? That sucks for people in Connecticut.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        What part of that statement implied that? Christmas crackers are just paper. They don’t explode. They’re not pyrotechnic.

        • Billy C says:

          Yup, they do. They usually have a tiny charge in them that pops when you pull it apart, kind of like a cap gun. You can sometimes see a tiny bit of smoke come out, and smell the sulfur if you stick your nose in the tube.

        • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

          You’ve apparently had very different crackers than I have, then. The ones I’ve seen have a small charge in them, which is what gives them their name (the “crack” when you pull them apart). It’s no more than you see in the party poppers sold at New Years, but if those are banned, I’d think crackers would be too.

    • Mark702 says:

      Wow. Connecticut sucks.

    • CorvetteJoe says:

      Ever empty about 100 sparklers out of all the boxes, cut of all the stems, bind them all together with ducttape, stick a fuse in it …. well… it goes BOOM big time.

      Sparklers. The safe firework. LOL

  5. Fishnoise says:

    My city has banned all “personal fireworks” due to the Dust Bowl-like dry conditions. According to the news, there have been 137 grass fires in the last two weeks — more than we’d normally get in years.

    I’ll be spending the night with the hose in my yard, given the strong possibility my neighbors will get all liquored up and decide to flout the ban — we always endure a lot of “friendly fire” and it’ll only take one errant bottle rocket to incinerate the premises this year.

    • deathbecomesme says:

      Well with them being your neighbor you have first strike capability. Take the preemptive approach and fire first!

    • raydeebug says:

      I grew up in Southern CA; plenty of neighbors were truckers and would bring all sorts of “the good stuff” to our street’s setting-stuff-on-fire party. One year, a bottle rocket went whizzing into our open garage.

      Our garage, which was so full of boxes and stored miscellaneous crap that there was only a single narrow path from the front to the back, and a small clear space around Dad’s workbench …

      Needless to say, we stopped everything for a good half hour, trying to find the damn thing. Never did. Our house didn’t burn down. In later years, everyone made sure to close their garage doors. XD

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      The guys down the road from me are the same way – tonight or tomorrow night it will sound like their township is launching an invasion of our township (the township line is about 50 yards from me). The first time it happened, I was slightly concerned about all the explosions, but when I saw the sky, I knew what was going on.

      Oh, and the same group nearly shot me with a bottle rocket when I was walking the dog. It missed, but now I’m leery when I walk by their property around this time of year. They did apologize, though :)

    • redskull says:

      Same here– we’ve got a ban as well because we haven’t had any rain here for months. It’s been 6 weeks since I’ve had to mow my lawn, which is now all brown and crunchy.

      There’s supposed to be a $1500 fine for anyone caught violating the ban. I’m wondering how many idiots in the neighborhood will ignore or don’t know about the ban.

  6. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Even though there are restrictions in Vermont, every year at lease 2-3 people up here blow their asses off. I also notice the APA PDF files use the term “daygo bomb” instead of “dago bomb.”

    • oloranya says:

      Probably because you can buy all the fun stuff over the border here in NH.

    • elangomatt says:

      How do they blow their asses off? Are people really stupid enough to put fireworks in the back pocket?

      /s

      I’m sure my corrupt state of Illinois has its fair share of injuries as well despite the very restrictive fireworks laws in place.

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

        *cough* (stares off into space)

      • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

        Indeed we do: http://www.sfm.illinois.gov/documents/2011FireworksInjuriesStatistics.pdf

        And at least 75% of those injuries are from fireworks that are not legal for the average Illinois citizen. The report doesn’t break down how many injuries were caused to licensed pyrotechnicians, but I’d lay odds that the majority of injuries were to people who just decided to import their own.

        • elangomatt says:

          I’d very much agree with those odds as well. Especially from my part of the state where Indiana is less than 20 miles away. The sounds during the night times during July 3rd – July 5th in my area are evidence enough on how many people bring fireworks over the border.

          • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

            Probably the scariest part of those numbers is that they come from voluntary reporting by IL hospitals to the State Fire Marshall’s office, and only about 25% of the hospitals actually provided information. So you know there were more accidents than were in that report.

            • RvLeshrac says:

              Scary? I like to sit down with a tub of popcorn and a large soft drink when reading about how complete fucking idiots have injured or killed themselves doing something retarded.

  7. byroan says:

    We can’t have the good stuff here in NC. Good thing SC allows pretty much everything and is a short drive.

  8. Guppy06 says:

    You may want to add Maryland to the “sparklers and not much else” list.

    • CalicoGal says:

      Yeah, too bad no one obeys it and the cops won’t do anything. I can only hope to hear sirens and later find out that Doofy McDooferson blew his hand off.

    • Tenacity says:

      Ah, but PA is so close, and they have huge fireworks outlets just for us! Guards check lD to make certain shoppers are from out of state. We usually spend more than $500 and shoot them off from the pier over our pond. And we aren’t the only ones. Our countryside horizon is dotted with large displays.

  9. Alexk says:

    Ohio has a weird law that permits you to buy all sorts of fireworks, so long as you present your driver’s license and sign a chit that states you will be taking the fireworks out of state.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah PA has the same basic law, and it’s always seemed strange to me also.

    • redskull says:

      Indiana does that as well. You can buy them here as long as “you fire them off in another state,” wink wink.

  10. ChuckECheese says:

    Arizona has been increasingly liberalizing the use of fireworks, although the rules are made on a town by town and county by county basis. A friend wondered why AZ did this, and I replied it’s because freepers love anything that sounds like gunfire.

  11. StarKillerX says:

    I live in NY near it’s border with PA and PA’s laws are strange. Only ground displays are legal for use in PA but they can sell arial displays but you have to show out of state drivers license and sign that you are taking them out of state, even a license from NY where fireworks are illegal is acceptable so there are a ton of shops selling them right across the border.

    I mean maybe NY could make some money legalizing crack cocaine for sale to people from outside the state? Same basic idea right?

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I live in PA. Most of our laws are strange.

      • Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

        Goddamn our liquor stores and no ship laws. Goddamn them so hard.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Yes. Damn you and your no-ship laws because it makes it nearly impossible for those of us in more lenient states to ship alcohol to other states without those stupid religious bullshit laws.

          Enough to make you agree with the Commerce Clause over-reaching.

  12. gnubian says:

    I live in a county island .. no fireworks allowed in my neighborhood this year. My boys are a little bummed (I took away their ground blooms and tanks), but understand.

  13. DoodlestheGreat says:

    You have to check your local area as well as your state. CA allows for the sale of non-areal fireworks like fountains and ground blooms, but the City of L.A. (for example) doesn’t allow anything but poppers and snaps.

  14. Gambrinus says:

    I’m sure everyone that lives here knows this, but there’s a state-wide fire ban in CO, and it’d be very irresponsible to set off fireworks.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Came to this story to say this. With the ongoing heat wave and drought, people should really be extremely careful. I would not recommend shooting off ANY fireworks right now. Many communities have canceled displays, or instituted bans at least for this year.

      You won’t die if you can’t shoot your little bottle rockets, but someone else might if you do.

    • StarKillerX says:

      When did you begin suffering the delusion where you started thinking people were responsible?

    • smarmyjones goes cattywampus says:

      Same for Wyoming. Though to my knowledge they are still allowing the commercial fireworks displays.

  15. tennesseemom says:

    It is so hot and dry here in middle Tennessee that there are firework bans in most of the counties this year. I don’t like fireworks in neighborhoods because the people rarely clean up and we are left with shit in the street for weeks until the street sweeper comes by. And I’m always scared of fires. This year is the worst since 2007. I think just farting on the grass will set it on fire now.

  16. kingofmars says:

    Florida allows residents to buy the explodey fireworks, but only for “agricultural use.”

  17. eturowski says:

    From my state, the great land of Taxachusetts:

    Specifically prohibited: Firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, flares, candles, bombs, sparklers, wheels, colored fire, fountains, mines, and serpents. [Yes, even sparklers are prohibited here!]

    Specifically permitted: None.

    I never thought I’d miss living in western Pennsylvania or Ohio…

    • eturowski says:

      Argh – you’d think with all of the recent Consumerist site edits, they could have at least added an edit button. Sorry for rehashing what was apparently spelled out above.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Terrible that the state isn’t allowing stupid people to injure the innocent and set houses on fire.

  18. reybo says:

    The founding fathers and the other Americans of the first 100 years would be so ashamed of us. “Thank you for the restrictive laws. Please, sir, can I have some more.”

    • RvLeshrac says:

      The laws are in place because the rest of us have to pay for the stupidity of people who set themselves on fire and then let it spread to the neighbouring homes or forests.

  19. chiieddy says:

    I’m in MA and it sounds like WW3 out there. Being illegal doesn’t mean people don’t go to NH and buy them and set them off. There’s too many going off for the police to monitor.

  20. PsiCop says:

    Right now most states are looking to raise revenues. Some are even desperate to do so. My guess is that, if they were to expand the fireworks available for sale but couple this expansion with an added tax on them, they’d reap in the bucks like nobody’s business. People can have fun, states get added money in their coffers, everybody wins.

  21. toyman says:

    Howdy everyone. The Cpsc sued and won against the “kit” people. They offered kits to make your own M-80. No loss. Skylighter has kits to make your own rockets. I have this kit. It is reasonable safe. I am making black powder rockets. I am not looking for the Darwin Award. :-)