More Freedom On Fireworks

July 4, 2018

This Independence Day probably will be louder than usual in your neighborhood but take heart — it’s the sound of freedom, or at least of consistency. Until the Legislature revised the state fireworks law last October, the byzantine rules rivaled those of the state booze monopoly. Basically, if you were a Pennsylvania resident, you could purchase only sparklers and similar novelties at Pennsylvania fireworks shops. But if you lived out of state and produced the appropriate identification at a Pennsylvania fireworks store, you could buy anything short of the fireworks used for commercial displays. The bizarre result was a booming retail fireworks trade along the state’s borders, catering to out-of-state customers. Under the new state law, Pennsylvanians 18 and older legally may buy firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and similar fireworks. Now, the retail business has expanded inland, most likely including a store near you. But local ordinances still apply, and state law maintains some restrictions, such as prohibiting use of fireworks within 150 feet of an occupied structure — your house, for example, and your neighbor’s house. And it is illegal to set off fireworks while intoxicated, which points, perhaps, to the saving grace of the holiday occurring on a weekday this year. Given that fireworks are loud and dangerous, the transition to broader availability likely will not be seamless. But the new law eliminates a senseless distinction, allowing Pennsylvania residents rather than their cousins from New Jersey to buy the fireworks for the picnic. So enjoy the newfound freedom to make a racket and celebrate independence. And for everyone’s sake, be careful.