[author: Josh Crank]
If you’re among the Michiganders who rejoiced at the news that The Great Lakes State legalized most consumer fireworks this year, you might want to temper your enthusiasm while in the Detroit suburb of Warren. Mayor James Fouts has his eye on you “pyromaniacs.”
Michigan is one of several states to loosen its fireworks restrictions in recent years as a means of bringing in new tax dollars. But Fouts and other local leaders throughout the state have led efforts to restrict fireworks at the local level, citing increases in noise complaints and the risk of accidental fire.
“The state has legalized these ‘consumer fireworks’ and people are going gung ho,” Fouts told the Detroit Free Press. “People, who were hesitant to do illegal fireworks, now are empowered.”
In Warren, fireworks use is now restricted to three-day periods surrounding certain national holidays, and it is forbidden to set them off within 30 feet of a residential structure. Similar ordinances have been passed in the Michigan cities of Grand Rapids, Ferndale, Novi, Birmingham and Royal Oak.
Planning a fireworks display is also confusing in Arizona, which relaxed its fireworks laws in 2010. Business is booming at fireworks stands across the state, but some shoppers have no idea that Arizona’s cities form a complex patchwork of local fireworks restrictions, with some prepared to issue hefty fines this Fourth of July.
Looser Laws, Fewer Injuries
In addition to Michigan and Arizona, states that have loosened their laws since 2010 include Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Utah. Only four states — Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Vermont — restrict fireworks use to sparklers and other small novelty items. Four others — Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — do not allow any consumer fireworks.
New state tax revenues may be the most compelling reasons why some states are allowing broader fireworks sales and use, but the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), a trade association representing the fireworks industry, says that industry-wide improvements have helped.
In a June press release, the APA associates the loosening laws with “industry efforts to encourage compliance with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s regulations, which have resulted in a substantial decline in consumer fireworks injuries.”
The APA says that fireworks-related injuries are down 43% from 2000, and that more permissive fireworks laws reduce injuries by encouraging people to carefully plan their displays rather than rush through them in an effort to avoid getting caught.
What’s Legal in Your State
The APA maintains an up-to-date directory of state fireworks laws that includes descriptions of the types of fireworks specifically permitted and prohibited in each state. But if you’re planning a fireworks display in a state that allows it, it’s important to check your local laws before lighting the fuse. Don’t just rely on the advice of your fireworks seller; check your city government and local police websites or call your police department directly to make sure your plans are lawful.
Just because a fireworks display is legal does not automatically make it safe. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has some tips to help you make this Independence Day both fun and safe.