The States Where Fireworks Are Illegal
Before you attempt to light up the night with a DIY fireworks spectacle, take a second to see if it's actually legal in your state.
Fireworks are so synonymous with the Fourth of July that they feel as American as apple pie. In actuality, these celebratory sparks are heavily regulated from state to state and not legal everywhere. If setting off fireworks isn’t one of your Fourth of July ideas, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do. But if you’re feeling extra festive this fourth or just have a little pyrotechnic itch to scratch, we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to add them to the festivities. But first you’re going to want to make sure that you don’t get your hands on any illegal fireworks, for your own safety along with everyone else’s. Read on to see whether or not you can legally set off explosives in your state.
Where Are Fireworks Illegal?
There’s actually only one state that completely bans all consumer fireworks. That’s Massachusetts. However, even Massachusetts does permit fireworks displays put on by professionals, so you can still catch a show for the Fourth of July. Ohio, Illinois, and Vermont also have extremely strict laws when it comes to fireworks and only allow wire or wood stick sparklers and other novelty items. If you live in one of those three states, make sure to carefully read the guidelines and laws for your state before you light anything. In these areas, it’s probably best to head to the nearest professionally-run fireworks show.
In Which States Are Fireworks Legal?
Forty-six states (plus Washington, D.C.) allow consumer fireworks in some form— but, again, exactly what form that is varies between states. For example, Indiana has relatively lenient laws compared to other states. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, the following are permitted in the Hoosier State: “Consumer fireworks that comply with the construction, chemical composition, and labeling regulations of the U.S. Consumer Products Commission.” However, you must be 18 years old to purchase them and there are time limitations as to when you can use them. Fireworks can only be set off between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on non-holidays but can go on until midnight on special occasions including July 4, Memorial Day, and New Year’s Eve.
Other states where fireworks are legal and have more relaxed laws on what consumers can obtain include Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and South Carolina.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are states like California, where fireworks are legal but within stricter limits. Ground and hand-held sparkling devices are a-ok, as are “cylindrical and cone fountains, wheel and ground spinners, illuminating torches,” and certain flitter sparklers. Anyone 16 years or older is able to purchase those, but only between noon on June 28 through noon on July 6. Not legal are things like firecrackers, roman candles, chasers, wire and wooden stick sparklers, and skyrockets.
For simple breakdowns, these are the states where fireworks are legal by category:
States That Permit a Majority of Consumer Fireworks:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
States That Permit the Sale and Use of Fireworks That Are Non-Aerial and Non-Explosive:
- New York
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- District of Columbia
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What Types of Fireworks are Illegal?
Each state has different rules and regulations about what types of fireworks they permit. In order to figure out what is classified as illegal fireworks, it’s important to know what makes certain fireworks safe. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the fuses on fireworks have to burn somewhere between three and nine seconds. This is called the “fuse burn time” standard and prevents injuries caused by not being able to get away from the explosive in time. Legal fireworks can also only have a maximum of 50 milligrams of pyrotechnic composition. Anything greater than that amount has not been regulated.
Some common signs of illegal fireworks could be a missing warning label. It is required by federal law for all fireworks products to have a label like this.
And, hey, if your state has strict fireworks laws, leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals and find a professional display to enjoy.
- Consumer Products Safety Commission: “Consumer Fireworks Testing Manuel”
- Mass.gov: “Leave Fireworks to the Professionals”
- APA: “2021 State Fireworks Control Laws”
- Daily Dot: “In which states are fireworks legal—and where are they totally illegal?”