There’s something about celebrating U.S. independence from British rule that makes us all want to blow up high powered fireworks, just because we can. Unfortunately, pesky state and local laws in various places can make that difficult because, as wonderful as explosions are, they can also be dangerous fire and safety hazards.
Bottom line, unless you’re a professional, regular consumers aren’t going to be able to put on the kind of spectacular light show that cities and towns across the country perform for their citizens, but there are some options out there for casual pyromaniacs.
Federal law designates three types of fireworks; display fireworks, which must be operated under supervision of a trained pyrotechnician; consumer fireworks, which are your mid-level fireworks that spin, roll, and jump with mini explosions and make relatively minimal noise; and “Articles Pyrotechnic,” which have the same shape and look as consumer explosives, but lack the proper clearance and markings from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
All states prohibit display fireworks (except for professionals), but most allow consumer fireworks, although a handful ban the explosives outright. If you’re looking for what’s legal in your state, here’s the full breakdown.
States That Ban Fireworks
- New Jersey
It seems somewhat absurd that residents in Boston, home of the Tea Party, the First Continental Congress, and numerous historical American moments, can’t even light sparklers on the Fourth of July, but such are the laws. Fortunately, if you’re on the Eastern seaboard, a more freedom-friendly state is just a short drive away.
States That Only Allow Novelty Items Such as Sparklers
Ohio consumers can buy fireworks from one of the 50 licensed state locations so long as they transport it out of the state within 48 hours. As an Ohio native, I can tell you many people do not follow that law, but now is a good time to say you should follow all state and county laws.
States That Allow Most Consumer Fireworks
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York North
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
All of these allow consumer fireworks of some sort, but unfortunately, the laws still fluctuate dramatically state-by-state. If you’re curious about whether a specific boom-stick is allowed in your state, the American Pyrotechnics Association has a detailed state-by-state breakdown that you should consult before purchasing or handling fireworks.
If exploding things personally isn’t your gig, you could also get out and fly a drone through a display — or just watch others do it because it’s totally illegal. Again, please follow all state and local laws involving pyrotechnics.