Illinois’ fireworks ban could land you in jail
Illinois remains one of only four states to impose severe restrictions on the purchase and use of consumer fireworks.
Every Independence Day, Illinoisans hear the cracking sound of fireworks followed by bursts of color lighting up their neighborhood. But despite this pastime’s popularity, a statewide ban on fireworks remains in place in Illinois. In fact, the Prairie State is one of the four most restrictive states in the nation for the sale and possession of consumer fireworks.
Illinois’ Pyrotechnic Use Act prohibits the sale, possession and use of almost all consumer fireworks. While fireworks continue to be an integral part of Illinoisans’ Independence Day celebrations, violation of the state’s ban is a class A misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail time. And although enforcement is lax, authorities certainly don’t turn a blind eye to residents’ possession of illicit fireworks.
Despite the severity of these restrictions, Illinoisans haven’t been discrete about circumventing the ban to celebrate the holiday. “We get quite a few Illinois residents,” said Deanna Delimat, director of operations at Black Bull Fireworks in Delavan, Wisconsin. “Depends on which [Black Bull Fireworks] store it is, but at the ones near the border, I’d say up to 70 percent of our business is Illinois residents.”
In Iowa, last Independence Day was the first in 80 years residents could use fireworks legally. The Hawkeye State repealed “the silliest law ever” in 2017, joining the rest of Illinois’ neighbor states in allowing the sale and use of a variety of fireworks. More recently, New Jersey and Delaware – formerly two of the only three states in the nation with bans on all consumer fireworks – loosened their fireworks restrictions in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Most consumer fireworks are now legal in 46 states, while Illinois’ strict prohibitions remain. Under the state’s current law, only wire or wood sparklers and novelty items such as snakes and snaps are permitted. That means firecrackers, roman candles, bottle rockets and other devices commonly associated with Independence Day celebrations are off limits. The most recent states that brought an end to their outright ban on fireworks have done so cautiously – allowing only a few previously forbidden items onto their markets. Nonetheless, those states have gone further than Illinois in allowing their residents the freedom to responsibly use consumer fireworks.
Public safety is a concern for some when considering the legality of consumer fireworks. According the most recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission annual fireworks report, there were 12,900 fireworks-related injuries nationwide treated in hospital emergency departments in 2017. That’s less than the annual number of injury emergencies caused by tipped-over furniture or children’s toys. Despite numerous states having legalized fireworks over the years, the report concluded that “there is not a statistically significant trend in estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries from 2002 to 2017.”
Illinoisans flock to border states to purchase fireworks every year, supporting out-of-state businesses and handing tax revenue over to neighboring state governments. Indiana has generated approximately $2.5 million in additional annual revenue since relaxing its fireworks laws. Iowa, meanwhile, expects to bring in an estimated $1.5 million in new revenue after having relaxed its fireworks restrictions.
“Illinois’ fireworks ban is good for us, it brings the business to us,” Delimat said.
It’s time Illinois lawmakers rethink the state’s paternalistic fireworks ban, and free border-state businesses from their competitive disadvantage. It’s far easier for residents to make cross-border fireworks purchases than it is for state coffers to recapture millions in lost tax revenue.