Whether or not fireworks are legal in the United States will vary by the type of firework and the jurisdiction in which the firework is purchased. The primary type of fireworks that an average person uses are known as consumer fireworks. As of 2023, consumer fireworks are permitted to purchase and own, with the exception of the state of Massachusetts.
In fact, fireworks are illegal to own in Massachusetts, except for sparklers and toy caps. These have penalties for violating the law, including criminal fines of up to $100 or 30 days of imprisonment. It is also illegal to bring fireworks purchased out of state into the state of Massachusetts.
In most other states, small-scale fireworks that the average consumer would use on holidays, such as the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve, are legal to purchase and use. Small-scale consumer fireworks are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission “CPSC.”
As can be seen from the above Massachusetts example, fireworks regulations and laws will vary by state and, in some cases, may even vary by county within the state. As such, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the laws of your state regarding fireworks before purchasing or bringing fireworks into the state.
Additionally, the laws and legality of owning fireworks also differ depending on whether or not the person who owns the fireworks is a professional organization that organizes fireworks displays. The laws concerning professional organizations that put on firework displays will differ from the laws concerning the possession and use of fireworks by an individual consumer. In most cases, only professionals can possess or participate in fireworks displays with permits under federal law.
What Are the State Laws on Fireworks?
Once again, the laws concerning the purchase and use of fireworks will depend on the nature of the fireworks and the state or county in which the firework is being purchased or owned. As mentioned above, most states allow consumer fireworks, but some states only allow novelty products, such as sparklers.
There are also states that restrict consumer fireworks use to those that have been classified “safe and sane” by the fire marshal. Safe and sane fireworks are typically non-aerial and non-explosive consumer fireworks. On the other hand, display fireworks are larger fireworks that are used by professionals in fireworks displays. In most cases, only professionals can possess or utilize display fireworks with permits under federal law.
Federal laws on fireworks will differ from state and local regulations and laws. The American Pyrotechnic Association (“APA”) is a national industry association for manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers of consumer fireworks, display fireworks, and other technical pyrotechnic devices. The APA works hand in hand with the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) regarding jurisdiction over the packaging and transportation of hazardous materials in commerce, which includes some commercial and consumer fireworks.
Specifically, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission is the organization that has jurisdiction in the United States over devices intended for use by consumers, with federal regulations for consumer fireworks being located in Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR.”)
The following is a summary of state laws regarding firework use and possession:
- Fireworks Completely Illegal: As mentioned above, Massachusetts is the only state that outright bans fireworks altogether.
- Specifically, It is illegal for a private Massachusetts citizen to use, possess, or sell fireworks in Massachusetts without a license and a permit.
- Included in this are fireworks purchased legally elsewhere and brought into Massachusetts, such as sparklers, firecrackers, cherry bombs, or other fireworks designed to produce a visible or audible effect;
- Novelty Fireworks Legal: In the states of Illinois, Ohio, and Vermont, it is legal to use wire or wood sparklers, snappers, snakes, and other novelty firework items, but not consumer explosive fireworks;
- Safe and Safe Fireworks Legal: In the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, it is legal to possess and use safe and sane fireworks; and
- Consumer Fireworks Legal: In the remaining states of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia it is legal to purchase and utilize consumer fireworks.
It is also important to note that there are fireworks that were once allowed to be purchased and owned in the past that are no longer legal to own, including heavy-duty fireworks like M-80s and Cherry Bombs. This is due to the high level of explosive materials contained in those fireworks.
What if I Am Injured Due to Fireworks?
If an individual is injured by fireworks, then that individual may have a valid personal injury claim against the party that injured them. As far as who may be held liable in the case of a fireworks injury, that will be dependent on the specific circumstances of how the fireworks injury occurred. In general, liability for a fireworks incident can be traced to one of two different parties:
- The individual or operator who was handling the fireworks;
- The manufacturer, designer, or distributor of the fireworks that caused the injury to the plaintiff (i.e., the individual harmed by the fireworks).
If an individual is injured by fireworks set off by another person, then that injured person may be able to initiate a personal injury claim for negligence against the responsible party. Fireworks are considered to be dangerous, and as such, anyone using them must adhere to the standard of care of a reasonable person.
The failure to exercise a reasonable standard of care could make the responsible party liable for any injuries that result from their negligent act. Further, if an individual is injured by fireworks that are illegal in their state, this could create automatic liability.
If an individual is injured by the firework itself, or a fireworks display, then they may be able to recover for their injuries by filing a product liability claim against the responsible party. In a products liability claim, the individual may argue that there was a defect in the product that resulted in them being injured.
This means that the individual who was harmed will typically sue the professional organization behind the fireworks display, if any, or the manufacturer or seller of the product for their injuries. These cases are often difficult because fireworks are dangerous products by nature. It also must be demonstrated that the plaintiff’s injury was the result of an unexpected danger or the result of a lack of proper warning about the product’s danger.
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Was Injured by Fireworks?
If you have been injured by fireworks and are considering pursuing a personal injury claim against the responsible party, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
An experienced personal injury attorney will be aware of your state’s specific personal injury laws and fireworks laws, as well as any statute of limitations that may apply to your case. An attorney will be able to help you initiate a personal injury claim against the party responsible for your injuries, as well as represent you in court, as needed.