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.