America's Insane Patchwork of Fireworks Regulations Can Crimp Your New Year's Eve Celebrations

Fortunately, fireworks regulations have been getting more liberal with each passing year.


Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

Millions of Americas will say goodbye to 2018 by setting off a few dozen of their favorite fireworks. What kind of fireworks they'll be able to use, how old they had to be to buy them, and whether they had to smuggle them across state lines are all highly contingent on where they live.

Take age limits, which vary widely across the country. In "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire, you must be 21 before buying fireworks, while South Carolina law considers 16-year-olds capable of both buying and selling these mini-explosives.

When you can buy fireworks also varies. States like Oregon, Indiana, and Kentucky restrict firework sales to times around the most explosive holidays—Fourth of July and New Year's—while others, such as Washington, let you buy them year-round.

And in Florida, fireworks are legal but only for pest control purposes.

"With all the stand-alone fireworks-only superstores in the state of Florida, there shouldn't be a critter left alive," Julie Heckman of the American Pyrotechnics Association told Reason back in August.

Fortunately the past few years have seen fireworks regulations get a little bit looser.

In May 2018, Delaware became the 49th state to legalize fireworks, leaving only Massachusetts with a blanket ban. Also this year, Ohio came tantalizingly close to getting rid of a law that—while allowing the sale of fireworks—required the purchaser to take them out of the state within 48 hours. The bill made it through the lower house of the state legislature, but stalled in the state Senate.

In 2017, Pennsylvania repealed a similar law that had restricted the sale of fireworks to those who could show an out-of-state driver's license. Now all adult Pennsylvanians have the ability to buy and use the fireworks sold in their state.

And Delaware and Pennsylvania aren't alone. Since 2011, places from West Virgina and Kentucky to New York and New Jersey have liberalized fireworks regulations in one way or another.

Despite the regulatory rollback, death and injuries related to the product remain rare. The average number of deaths from firework accidents is only seven per year, even though Americans consume more than 200 million pounds of the stuff annually. The injury rate has remained pretty flat over the past decade as well, hovering between 3 and 4 injuries per 100,000 people.

That these figures have stayed consistently low despite the twin trends of increasing consumption and looser laws suggests Americans can generally handle the responsibility of shooting off fireworks without also shooting off their fingers.

Hopefully 2019 will give them more freedom to do just that.

NEXT: Louis CK's Politically Incorrect Comedy Didn't Change. You Did.

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  1. So in that other other other other other thread I made the judgementless observation that sparky seems to constantly be scolding people, and the not very bright Fagamammon proved he doesn’t know the difference between scolding someone and observing thwir behavior.

    It was deeply embarassing for both the scold, sparky, and the idiot, fagamammon.

    1. Five! Do I hear five?

      Come on FIVE!

    2. Yet you were scolding him for scolding other people.

      And now you’re here – in a completely different thread – scolding me.

      1. “Yet you were scolding him for scolding other people”

        No extremely stupid person, I made no judgement, it was an observation.

        I’m amazed that you are still too stupid to understand the difference even after having it repeatedly explaoned to you.

        “And now you’re here – in a completely different thread – scolding me”

        And you’re here crying while proving you don’t know whay scolding is.

        It’s not my fault you’re too stupid to understand the difference between making an observation and scoldong someone.

        Stop crying just because I point out how stupid you are.

        1. Herp derp Just because I don’t know what scolding is that’s no reason to make fun of how debilitatingly moronic i am!!!

          1. There there, it’s obvious to everyone who isn’t posessed of far too mamy chromosomes that observation isn’t the same as scolding, but some losers like Fagammoron have empty pathetic lives and need to draw false equivalence because their closest experience to joy is a gotcha on the internet.

            Sadly in this case there was no gotcha apart from Nagammammon making a fool of himself proving he doesn’t know what scold means.

    3. Seems to be about enough of this crap.

      1. Not even close.

        Feel free to leave.

  2. Now all adult Pennsylvanians have the ability to buy and use the fireworks sold in their state.

    Yeah, but that was more about sticking it to Ohio than expanding liberty in the Keystone State.

  3. Fireworks schmireworks – around here we shoot off guns into the air.

    1. And if you’re involved, you stupidly mistake making an observation for scolding and then cry like a bitch to make sure everyone knows you don’t know the difference.

      1. Dude… Stop being a fucking asshole.

        1. Has that ever worked when you’ve said it before?

          Or had it said to you?

          So you think it’ll work NOW?

        2. Besides… He fucked up and acted like a tit. I’ll be an asshole about it until I’m done.

          Get over it.

          1. Oh, I’m over it. Librarian. I just don’t like this alter ego.

              1. I guess so.

    2. They do that here too, but mostly to bring down geese.

      For the 1st time, I’m trying a cometic shell, 2″ cylindric. Cometic means it has Roman candles as inserts. Magnallium “blinding” red, then Winokur D1 glitter, then a flash bounce. If it goes wrong, it’ll be comedic.

      1. If it goes wrong, it’ll be comedic.

        Only to those at least a hundred feet away.

      2. Turned out the candles didn’t light, just some extra stars & whistles I threw in. I shouldn’t tried to rimfire-prime the stars w white glue & FFFg pistol powder. There must be a reason people use nitrocellulose lacquer & not aqueous glue as binder; must be that the glue dampens the powder even after the glue seems completely dry. In retrospect I should’ve put a zigzag of bare match into the mouth of each to prime it.

        Or maybe 750 mg of flash was too powerful a burst charge, & blew the inserts blind.

        1. I meant I shouldn’t’ve tried to prime the candle inserts that way. The stars had their own priming.

  4. Round here in Maine they legalized fireworks a few years ago, but towns are allowed to add their own restrictions. Which most of them have. So it’s legal to buy them, but damn difficult to find a place to shoot them off that won’t attract blue lights.

  5. FIreworks regulations are there to show the world that nannies love to nanny and get paid for it.
    After all, the only adults in this country are the ruling elites, their stooges who regulate and micromanage our meaningless lives and their cronies who grow rich off the public trough.
    Any questions?

  6. To be fair, not all states or localities ban fireworks to protect us from ourselves. In some places, fireworks pose a real fire danger. That being said, I’m all for legalizing them and punishing the idiots that don’t exercise due care and actually cause some harm. The possibility you might cause harm shouldn’t be criminal.

  7. What some might call “America’s Insane Patchwork of Fireworks Regulations” others might call federalism and/or home rule at work.

  8. It’s interesting that
    1. Claims belief in “Libertarianism”, yet criticizes the lack of a centralized rule-making structure in this instance (“America’s Insane Patchwork of Fireworks Regulations…”).
    A supposed core tenet of “Libertarianism” involves decentralized power.
    2. Is supporting a “legalization” movement that is based largely on the collection of taxes in exchange for that “freedom”.
    Shouldn’t “freedom” be pursued in a “Libertarian” model on it’s own basis, and not tied solely to economic gains by a state? attributes the relaxed regulations to states looking to supplement slowing revenue.

    So, is the “Libertarian” version of “freedom” a mere pay-to-play scheme?

    These are just SOME of the grand HYPOCRISIES OF “Libertarianism”.

    Beyond that:
    Per the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): 8 deaths, 13,000 injuries from fireworks in 2017.
    This is an increase of the 7 average deaths annually over the previous 10 years.

    This is also up from 2016:
    Fireworks were involved in an estimated 11,100 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments.

    Which was up again from previous:
    In 2014, 10,500 fireworks-related injuries were seen in U.S. hospital emergency rooms.

    Thus we’re seeing increases year-after-year, since relaxed regulations.

    Simply relaxing restrictions/regulations minus an equivalent increasing of intellect results in failures.

    1. Plus, per the
      In 2013, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,400 structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires.

      These fires cost $33 million in 2011
      These fires cost $79 million in 2012……..after regulatory relaxation began.

      According to The American Pyrotechnics Associations (APA) map of states’ fireworks laws. Since 2011, eleven states ? Kentucky, Utah, New Hampshire, Michigan, New York, Georgia, West Virginia, Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware ? have lifted restrictions on the sale of certain types of consumer fireworks in order to gain the tax revenues.
      This period has accounted for the greatest easing of restrictions.

      Yet this states that:
      “That these figures have stayed consistently low despite the twin trends of increasing consumption and looser laws suggests Americans can generally handle the responsibility of shooting off fireworks without also shooting off their fingers.”

      1. Yet, again per the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
        Table A-1
        Estimated Fireworks-Related Injuries:
        Year Estimated Injuries

        2015 11,900
        2014 10,500
        2013 11,400
        2012 8,700
        2011 9,600
        2010 8,600
        2009 8,800
        2008 7,000
        2007 9,800
        2006 9,200

        So, lacking any relevant & significant data, this claim by is incorrect.
        Since 2011, the U.S. has seen a almost 24 percent increase over 4 years in fireworks-related accidents.

        What won’t tell you is that regulations began tightening in the 80’s after massive spikes in accidents, deaths, and fires related to fireworks incidents.

        We’re again beginning to approach those same levels.

        I’m all for relaxed legislation, but doing so successfully requires better-developed intellect, and moral & ethical conscience.
        The fact remains that the mindless masses are too stupid to act responsibly.

        This is a MUCH MORE complicated issue the simpletons are always make it out to be.

      2. But the stats don’t differentiate between consumer & display fireworks.

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