Illinois fireworks ban costing the state jobs, money, independence
Independence Day turns many Illinoisans into scofflaws as they ignore rules banning most fireworks. The outdated laws mainly serve fireworks stands in border states.
Illinois gave the nation four U.S. presidents and a major city birthed by the nation’s farms. It was the first to ratify the 13th Amendment and inspired many of the nation’s greatest minds.
So, when it is time to celebrate its place in the nation on Independence Day, Illinois is one of just a handful of states that limits the all-American freedom to ignite a rocket’s red glare.
The Land of Lincoln is one of just six states that imposes bans and limitations on residents’ ability to buy and use fireworks. Along with Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio, Illinois bans the use or purchase of fireworks other than novelty items such as sparklers, small noisemakers and smoke bombs. Massachusetts bans consumer fireworks completely.
Fireworks users can expect heavy penalties if caught. Possession, transportation, or use of illegal fireworks is a Class A misdemeanor with fines up to $2,500 or one year in prison, although law enforcement often ignores violators unless they really annoy the neighbors. It’s also a federal offense to bring them into Illinois from another state.
In addition to dampening Illinoisans’ Independence Day celebrations, the state’s fireworks ban costs the state critical jobs and tax revenue. Anyone who drives across state lines sees this immediately when they are bombarded with billboards advertising the nearest fireworks stand.
In Indiana, Independence Day creates economic growth. Indiana brings in $2.5 million each year in tax revenue by imposing a 5% tax on pyrotechnics – atop the sales taxes – and a $276 retailer fee, according to the Tax Foundation. In 2019, roughly 4,000 seasonal jobs were created by Indiana’s fireworks businesses. Especially in towns near the Indiana state line, this is economic activity Illinois is voluntarily watching leave the state.
Since 2011, eight states have legalized fireworks use, leaving Illinois’ outdated laws behind. The state has banned fireworks since 1942. Iowa was the first state to ban fireworks in 1938, but it recently legalized them again, along with New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Ohio lawmakers are currently in the process of legalizing fireworks.
Nationwide, Americans spent $1 billion on consumer fireworks last year.
Opponents of fireworks legalization cite safety concerns and severe injuries that can be caused by large commercial grade fireworks. However, a 2018 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says “there is not a statistically significant trend in estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries from 2003 to 2018.” Nationwide there were 9,100 fireworks injuries requiring a trip to the ER in 2018, with sparklers causing 2.5 times as many injuries as bottle rockets. Illinois allows sparklers but bans bottle rockets.
On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife that “[Independence Day] ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
It is time Illinoisans celebrated Independence Day the way the Founding Fathers envisioned: by igniting a little freedom.