Police Abuse

Happy Fourth! …Unless You Live in a State With Firework Bans



Tomorrow's the big day in the U.S. of A, and what better way to celebrate our independence than with some real firepower? That's probably what one unnamed, entrepreneurial 77-year-old Cleveland resident thought. Unfortunately for him, he lives in a state that essentially bans the detonation of anything stronger than a sparkler, and now he may be facing felony charges.

The Plain Dealer reported yesterday:

A citizen tipped off police that the Cleveland man … was illegally selling fireworks. Detectives bought two boxes of assorted fireworks for $100 from the Cleveland man. After the purchase, the man told the undercover officers he could get them bigger fireworks, [Second District Commander Thomas] Stacho said.

Detectives followed him to the 8700 block of Pleasant Valley Road in Parma, Stacho said. He opened the garage to what looked like a store, shelves lined with hundreds of fireworks, ranging from small firecrackers and sparklers to professional grade explosives and H-100 firecrackers. …

Police and prosecutors are taking the cases against the [77-year-old and another man] to a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury and are seeking a felony indictment. The men have not been arrested or charged.

His loot added up to about $100,000 worth of fun. Now the cops will have the pleasure of "detonat[ing] the confiscated fireworks in a large hole in an undisclosed location."

While Cleveland police officers like Stacho pat themselves on the back for staging "one of the largest fireworks seizures any one of us are aware of or remember in the city," it's worth reflecting on the situation's absurdity: a senior citizen could face prison time for conducting business that less than two hours' drive away across the Pennsylvania border wouldn't warrant a written citation (albeit, with the proper licensing).

Ohioans aren't the only ones burdened by such prohibitions. The Washington Post highlights the fact that "roughly 1 in 9 Americans lives in a state that bans all consumer fireworks." Those would be Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Additionally, "five states — Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Ohio and Vermont — allow only sparklers and/or novelty fireworks. And Arizona allows only novelty fireworks."

I'd say it's unfortunate for residents of those states, but having participated in many such fireworks displays, I know it's all the more titillating to celebrate Independence Day in direct defiance of bad laws. 

NEXT: One Day Only Old People Will Remember the '90s

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  1. It has been a late, wet spring, so I don’t have to worry *too* much about some idiot setting the fucking mountain on fire.

    1. Theres always my new roof. It’s illegal here but not enforced. They should be legal but you shouldnt be setting off anything airborne in a subdivision.

    2. Sauron said the same thing.

  2. “Police and prosecutors are taking the cases against the [77-year-old and another man] to a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury and are seeking a felony indictment. The men have not been arrested or charged.”

    Now is the time for this grand jury to serve its constitutional function and refuse to indict.

    But it’s Cleveland, so the grand jurors will probably let us down.

    1. Are you saying Browns players are on the grand jury?

  3. Fireworks are illegal in New York, but I still hear them for a week around this time. The extent to which the police care – next to nil. They’re typically imports from the next state over.

    1. Yeah, but the amount of Roman candle fights I’ve participated in has decreased dramatically. I’m blaming plastic trash cans (because an aluminum lid made the perfect round shield), not my age or the NYPD.

  4. Where I live we have 3 or 4 MASSIVE fireworks vendors who are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, but residents aren’t legally allowed to purchase or possess fireworks in the county. On the other hand, if you travel here from California, where fireworks are banned, you can purchase an entire truckload, cart it back with you, and either blow up your contraband or sell it at a big markup. A strange coincidence.

    1. I’ve never understood how those places stay in business.

      1. I just explained how. Those guys make enough in the week leading up to July 4th to keep the places running the rest of the year as a community jobs program. California badgers the county and local gov here every year to crack down on it. It’s a nice little situation they’ve set up for the vendors. People from Las Vegas routinely try to sneak warez into the city this time of year as well, but since there’s only 1 highway connecting us it’s relatively easy to get caught if they set up check points (which they’ve done in the past).

        1. Oh, you live in Pahrump. 😉

          1. Indeed. Come for the ham radio, stay for the brothels.

    2. FYI not all California cities (except where I live) banned fireworks . Recently at the fireworks superstores at the California-Nevada border there are “undercover narcs” that are spying on people who are from So Cal trying to by fireworks that are banned in California and reporting them to the authorities to arrest and confiscate the fireworks that they had purchase and this happens during this time of year!

  5. I hear fireworks all the time here in NJ and at my parents’ house in MA. Nobody pays attention to their stupid laws.

    1. From the Minneapolis Police:

      Fireworks reports can be made via 311 online, through mobile app, and by phone; call 911 for fireworks-related life safety or fire hazard concerns.

      Fourth of July fireworks are part of many people’s Independence Day celebrations, and the noise complaints and safety issues they generate lead to high call volumes at 911 call centers across the country. That’s why the City of Minneapolis and its police and fire departments want to make sure folks know what to do if they have fireworks-related complaints this summer.

      On a typical 4th of July evening, Minneapolis 911 will receive 300-400 calls per hour, most of which are related to fireworks noise complaints. On a normal day, Minneapolis 911 will receive fewer than 100 calls per hour. Because of the huge volume of calls, police officers cannot be dispatched to each fireworks noise incident on or near the 4th of July.

  6. The Illinois ban is pretty much only enforced in the Chicago area.

    Elsewhere in the state, you are good as long as you aren’t being a total tool about setting them off.

    Back when I lived in the southern part of the state I saw an Illinois state police officer in uniform buying fireworks in Missouri. I guess he was on his break.

    1. If your suburb has enough soccer moms, you get lots of calls to the cops.

      BTW – Thanks Zenon, for once again reminding me I live in a liberty sinkhole here in IL…

      1. Just doing my job.

      2. I’ve been hearing the really big loud ones in my area for the last two weeks.

        I am unincorporated but still fairly suburbish (Kane Co) so that may have something to do with it. Either no one calls, or the sheriff ain’t got time for this petty crap.

  7. When I was in high school (90s, from the getting old thread), they had a court session in the auditorium where they did part of a case to show the kids how the court system worked.

    Guy was railroaded for fireworks (just became legal here in the last year or two). It was my first thoughts on jury nullification, too. Of course, they nailed him extra hard to show the kids what you get for defying the state.

    And then I went on summer break, and got a bunch of fireworks from Indiana to have some nice big booms.

  8. I was in Columbus on the 4th one year, and witnessed a police helicopter chasing down people shooting off illegal fireworks and leading ground units to go cite them. It was around then that I became aware of the tyrannical tendencies of our boys in blue.

    1. The Columbus PD loves to bust heads. I got tear-gassed as a kid when I went to a big Ohio State block party. It was amazing to see a peaceful mob of idiots turn into a riot because a mob of rival idiots showed up in riot gear. Highly instructive.

    2. + Fahrenheit 451

  9. One of my fondest teenage/family memories was a giant, most of the family trip to Indiana to stock up on fireworks. I was working by then, and had money to burn (explode). All my aunts and Uncles that went, too. Like 8 of us in a full-size van, coming back with over $1000 of fireworks.

    A cousin, separately, came up with quarter sticks of dynamite.

    That was a good fourth.

    1. I remember one year my aunt bought a shit ton of illegal fireworks. She had several garbage bags filled with them at her place. We had a grand time shooting them off out in the country.

  10. Don’t forget limitations on other types of fireworks. The state of Oregon doesn’t allow for some of the bigger fireworks you can get in the state of Washington. When I worked in Portland, OR for a year, you could go up to one of the hills overlooking the city and watch all the illegal fireworks, purchased in Washington and smuggled across the Columbia River, going off all over the city. You typically hear an annual news report of the police pulling over and confiscating the fireworks of a couple people to try to discourage this practice.

    1. I lived both in and just outside Spokane WA and you can’t touch any decent fireworks within the city. Living 15 miles outside the city I was over the county line, and only about a half hour away from the local Indian reservation where they sell the good stuff. So locality is important too.

  11. Those would be Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Additionally, “five states ? Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Ohio and Vermont ? allow only sparklers and/or novelty fireworks.

    Most of these states demanded a nanny to take care of them. They got what they asked for, but I do feel sorry for the minority who didn’t want this shit but have to put up with it anyway.

  12. AT LEAST WE HAVE ALL OUR FINGERS. Or lost them for other reasons.

  13. Ohio? WTF. I mean… I don’t like it, and it’s certainly communalistic of them, but I can at least understand the firework restrictions here in New Mexico. The state catches on fire pretty regularly anyway. It doesn’t need any help. But Ohio gets rain.


  14. Firework bans are unamerican

    1. Ignoring bans and prohibitions is a very American tradition.

  15. When I was a kid I remember a 4th of July where my dad and my uncle were shooting bottle rockets off at my grandparent’s house. A cop car pulled up outside the house and everyone had to scatter except my dad and my uncle. The cop came into the backyard holding a bottle rocket in his hand and said “I believe this is yours” and handed it to my dad. It had landed right on the hood of his cop car. Then he just left without arresting anyone. This was the late 80s/early 90s in smalltown central PA, so not everyone was a felon for having fun yet.

  16. We’re in Vermont, we’re breaking the law tomorrow.

  17. The particular arrest here isn’t too awful–Ohio allows the sale of all consumer fireworks with appropriate license and safety requirements. There are Phantom stores all over the state. This guy was storing and selling professional grade fireworks (with over a specified amount of powder), which aren’t legal for consumer sales anywhere in the U.S, and doing so out of his basement. Doing the same thing in Pennsylvania would face the same jail time, while selling consumer fireworks with a license in both Ohio and Pennsylvania is perfectly legal.

    The problem with Ohio is that they don’t allow the use of any consumer fireworks other than sparklers and snakes, while allowing the purchase of any consumer fireworks you want. I got a police visit last Labor Day for setting off fireworks (mortars, repeaters, fountains, and roman candles) in a neighbor’s huge backyard, a good 250 ft. from anyone and following good safety protocol (unused fireworks in a covered box, bucket of water nearby, bucket of sand & a stone for setting up fireworks, etc.) Got a visit from police–fortunately, not until I was down to my last repeater.

  18. Here’s something Reasonable from last year, a poem by Howard Memerov posted by Nick Gillespie: https://reason.com/blog/2013/07…..uly-howard.

  19. Land of the free, home of the brave. This is just another of an endless litany of examples why this phrase and others like it should only ever be spoken with a sense of bitter irony. People, quite literally, think that being free means you are able to the things that the state says you can do.

    1. E Plebneesta.

      1. Freedom is my Worship Word!

  20. In my neighborhood, they shoot their guns.

  21. Now the cops will have the pleasure of “detonat[ing] the confiscated fireworks in a large hole in an undisclosed location.”

    Hopefully, they’ll blow off some fingers when they do it.

  22. a senior citizen could face prison time for conducting business that less than two hours’ drive away across the Pennsylvania border wouldn’t warrant a written citation (albeit, with the proper licensing)

    Zenon, PA’s fireworks rules are worse than Ohio’s. The license you refer to is very hard to get unless you know the right people and comply with some requirements that are set up more for large commercial shows than for backyard celebrations.

    Weirdly, there are fireworks stores in Ohio and Pennsylvania that carry the big stuff, but each state prohibits its residents from buy-in within the state. Therefore, a PA resident has to drive across the.border into p
    Ohio to buy, but one has.to fill out a form certifying that one will remove the fireworks from Ohio within 24 hours.and not set them off there. Similar regs are in place in Ohio, where Ohioans must drive.into PA. I think there are even shops on the New York border that will sell to anyone except residents of New York. The rules are absolutely ridiculous. PA does not have.any sort of fireworks freedom.

  23. In Floriduh, most fireworks are technically illegal, but there is an exemption for “farmers”, who can buy fireworks for the purpose of scaring birds away from their fields. You can buy pretty much anything as long as you sign a statement that they are being used for agricultural purposes. The cops stopped trying to enforce the ban a long time ago.

  24. Hey guys guess what? You got it wrong. We’ve had fireworks

    1. That’s fireworks freedom in Vermont! Stores with crackers, Roman candles, rockets, artillery shells, etc. Booming in Vermont!

  25. The same way coaching children’s football has put me off watching football, making fireworks (which is less illegal than you think) has put me off shooting commercial ones. In each case the thrill of uncertain effect is art of it.

    1. “the thrill of uncertain effect”

      Is that like, pyrotechnics design by trial and error? 😉

      1. Yes, but I meant to write “part of it”. When it comes to the football kids, though, the uncertainty is whether they’ll do what you taught them.

  26. I buy fireworks in OH on my through to VT. A state cop sits there and has my sign a document saying I will not set them off in OH. I think there is a substantial state tax on fireworks in OH. Oh, in VT a licensed pyrotechnic sets off our pooled resources. Happy fourth. . . . And visit Cal Coolidges home in Plymouth Notch, VT for this years celebration. It should be exceptional.

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