Illinois’ fireworks ban limits liberty, hurts job growth
Illinoisans celebrate Independence Day by taking their fireworks business to other states, despite bans and threats at home, causing the state to lose out on jobs and revenue.
Red, white and blue flags, the smell of grilled burgers and hot dogs, and most of all, the familiar boom and sparkle in the sky are sure signs of Independence Day, but in Illinois freedom is quieter thanks to one of the nation’s most-restrictive laws for fireworks.
Fireworks are a long-standing Independence Day tradition dating back to the Founding Fathers. As John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” Across the United States, Adams’ vision remains alive and well: Americans in 47 states spent $2.2 billion dollars on consumer fireworks in 2021.
However, despite the Founding Father’s wish, Illinoisans do not get to partake in the patriotic practice. It is one of three states that ban all or most consumer fireworks.
In 1942 Illinois passed the Illinois’ Pyrotechnic Use Act, making it illegal to purchase and use fireworks other than novelty items such as sparklers, small noise makers and smoke bombs. Under this act the possession, transportation and use of any consumer fireworks such as firecrackers, Roman candles or bottle rockets is deemed a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines up to $2,500 or a year in prison.
Despite the legal consequences, Illinois license plates flood the parking lots of fireworks retailers just across the state lines on and around Independence Day each year. The fireworks ban prompts Illinoisans to take their business to neighboring states, costing Illinois both tax revenue and jobs.
Pennsylvania, which has roughly the same population as Illinois, brings in $10 million in tax revenue annually from fireworks sales. Illinois state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who wants to repeal the fireworks ban, argues Illinois is missing out on that $10 million in sales tax revenue each year for no good reason.
Additionally, Indiana’s fireworks retailers created roughly 4,000 seasonal jobs in 2019. Currently, Illinois’ unemployment rates remain higher than any other state in the Midwest. Legalizing the sale of fireworks would bring new jobs and revenue to a state in need of both.
So why isn’t Illinois lighting this fuse?
Opponents of firework freedom cite safety precautions as a reason to uphold the ban. However, the evidence doesn’t support the claim that Illinois’ fireworks ban promotes safety.
In fact, the sparklers and novelty fireworks Illinois allows caused about 2.3 times more emergency department-treated injuries across the country than all fireworks categorized as rockets between June 21 and July 21, 2020. In other words, Illinois’ legal fireworks are more dangerous than its illegal fireworks.
Realistically, fireworks are here to stay, legal or not. Illinois should follow the lead of Ohio and bring fireworks freedom to Independence Day.
In November 2021, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation that legalized fireworks use. Ohio’s previous law was like Illinois’ in that it only allowed novelty fireworks such as sparklers. Although it was legal to buy consumer fireworks in Ohio, the law prohibited consumers from igniting them and required the fireworks to be taken out of the state within 48 hours. Effective on July 1st, 2022, House Bill 172 legally allows Ohio adults to purchase and use consumer-grade fireworks on certain holidays, such as the Fourth of July.
The law also imposes a 4% fee on retail fireworks sales, which goes toward funding firefighter training programs and pays for the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s regulation and enforcement of the fireworks industry. The bill demonstrates how Illinois can legalize fireworks while also funding safety.
The bottom line is residents across Illinois will be lighting off fireworks on Independence Day whether they are legal or not, yet Illinois will reap none of the financial benefits. It’s time Illinois ends the 80-year-old ban and joins the other 47 states that trust their residents with a little freedom, just as the Founding Fathers intended.
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