Aside from baseball, hotdogs, apple pie (and of course Mom), there’s nothing more American than fireworks. Our delight with them dates back to the very founding of the Republic: John Adams, writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776, urged that Independence Day should be celebrated “with pomp and parade…bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, fireworks have been associated with Independence Day.
But as any teenage boy can tell you, most fireworks — including anything that explodes, spins, flies, or otherwise leaves the ground (basically all the cool stuff like firecrackers, M80s, Roman candles, bottle rockets, missile batteries, mortars, and flying spinners) — are currently against the law in North Carolina. You can’t own them, sell them, or set them off in the Tar Heel state.
The fireworks that are legal to buy and discharge here are limited to items that don’t fly or explode (such as wire sparklers, fountains, smoke devices, snake and glow worms, and trick noisemakers). Five states (New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) don’t allow any kind of fireworks at all.
Lawbreaking hooligans in North Carolina can face charges, fines, and even jail time. Our prohibition applies to fireworks purchased in other states as well — so loading up the family station wagon with contraband from South Carolina will still get you in trouble if you’re caught with the bootleg fireworks back home.
But a new bipartisan piece of legislation, House Bill 367, is looking to change all that. If it’s passed into law, you’ll be able to buy fireworks — the cool stuff — right here in North Carolina, and right in time for the 4th of July.
The bill was spearheaded by concerned citizen Zach Harris, who started a Facebook page last year called Legalize Consumer Fireworks in North Carolina. He worked with legislators to come up with rules and regulations addressing the legal sale and safe use of fireworks.
“I got the idea to write each legislator in the North Carolina General Assembly last Fourth of July pertaining to legalizing more pyrotechnics and promoting safety over prohibition,” Mr. Harris said in a recent interview with the Richmond County Daily Journal. “North Carolinians every year are forced to venture to South Carolina and Tennessee to purchase fireworks that are not permitted in N.C. while our state continues to lose millions of dollars in much-needed revenue every year.”
Mr. Harris is referring to the loss of sales taxes to the states in which consumer fireworks are legal; if fireworks become legal here, North Carolina would collect sales tax on each transaction.
Basically, the proposed law would allow for the sale, possession, and discharge of certain consumer fireworks that are permitted by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), as is the case presently in South Carolina.
Parents will be happy to know that there are some common-sense safety rules in the legislation as well. Stores selling fireworks would be required to have a license, you’d have to be at least 16 to buy them and 18 to use them — and they’d only be allowed to be set off between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. (and until midnight on the 4th of July and from 8:00 A.M. on December 31st until 12:30 A.M. on January 1st). Fireworks also wouldn’t be able to be lit on school grounds or within 500 feet of a hospital, veterinary hospital, licensed child care center, fireworks retailer, fireworks distributor, gas station, or bulk storage facility for petroleum products or other explosive or flammable substances.
The legislation also gives local city and county governments the option to opt-out and prohibit the possession or use of fireworks entirely.
By the way — those big fireworks displays you see on holidays like in the picture above? They require a state-issued pyrotechnics license and a local permit. Current state law requires that anyone shooting indoor or outdoor fireworks on that scale must submit an application to the State Fire Marshal, attend a safety class, and pass an exam.