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Is Ohio's fireworks law a dud?

Published: Wed, July 1, 2009 @ 12:01 a.m.


JULY FOURTH FIREPOWER: Barry White of Duquesne, Pa., shops for fireworks at Phantom Fireworks on Market Street in Youngstown.


Chief Jimmy Hughes.


Boardman Police Chief Patrick Berarducci


State Rep. Thomas Letson of Warren, D-64th


Rep. Robert F. Hagan, D-Youngstown. (AP Photo/Larry Phillips)


State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd

Police officials in the Valley say Ohio’s fireworks law needs to be changed.

By David Skolnick


Those inside the Phantom Fireworks showroom on Market Street in Youngstown legally purchase fireworks with colorful names — “Fear No Evil,” “Rain of Fire,” “Shagadelic Mojo,” “Battle of Yorktown Assortment” and “Molotov Cocktail.”

You’ll see these and other fireworks on display this weekend in your neighborhood, perhaps by you or someone down the street.

Though it’s illegal to ignite these and other consumer fireworks, unless you’re careless, reckless or just plain stupid, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be arrested.

“To eliminate [people using fireworks] would be impossible,” said Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes. “We try to control the nuisance issue. Most complaints are noise violations for people setting them off for hours. We give out warnings and have conversations telling people to shut them down. We get way more calls [on fireworks] than we can handle.”

State law also requires those who buy fireworks to sign a document stating they’ll get the fireworks purchased in Ohio out of the state within 48 hours or face criminal charges.

“Knowingly making a false statement on this form is falsification under Section 2921.13 of the Ohio Revised Code and is punishable as a misdemeanor of the first degree,” the form reads.

A first-degree misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

But don’t get too worried about getting arrested if you violate the law.

“I don’t have the time or manpower to enforce a law that’s basically unenforceable,” said Boardman Police Chief Patrick J. Beraducci. “The signing of a document is impossible to enforce. Do I follow you for 49 hours to make sure you get it out of the state? We have burglaries and other crimes to handle. It’s not a good use of our time.”

Beraducci, Hughes and state legislators say not only should the law requiring fireworks consumers to sign a document be changed, but so should the law making it illegal to use consumer fireworks in Ohio.

“Don’t make them legal with a wink; just make them legal,” Beraducci said. “To be honest, I don’t know why Ohio has the law they have. It’s unenforceable. The public interest is better served by allowing not only the sale of fireworks, but the use of fireworks.”

This is a topic that comes up nearly every year around the Fourth of July, but the state Legislature hasn’t done anything to change the law in decades.

State Reps. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th, and Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, said they’ve had only preliminary talks with colleagues about a bill to change the fireworks law but haven’t proposed legislation.

“We’ve been busy with other things,” Letson said. “But it’s time to explore whether the law needs to be changed. It’s worth discussing.”

Letson suggests making legally sold consumer fireworks ­— such as fountains, Roman candles, cones, bottle rockets and aerials — legal for people to use around the Fourth of July and around New Year’s.

Also, the document each person buying fireworks signs promising to take the items out of state within 48 hours of purchase should be eliminated, he said.

“We shouldn’t make laws that turn our citizenry into liars,” Letson said.

The Legislature needs to take action to legalize consumer fireworks, said Hagan, a state legislator for the past 23 years.

“We don’t do anything, and we need to,” he said. “We should have a law that adjusts itself to reality. We also need to eliminate the forms.”

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, called the fireworks law “a little outdated” and “not based in reality.”

The only fireworks legal to use in Ohio are sparklers, snaps, smoke bombs and glow snakes. Those items take up a small enclosed portion of the Phantom Fireworks showroom on Market Street in North Lima.

“The law isn’t enforced, and it shouldn’t be,” Schiavoni said. “They should be legal as long as you are careful with fireworks, they’re not done by kids and you don’t use large explosives. Maybe the state should reclassify some of the smaller fireworks, like bottle rockets, to make them legal to use. Fireworks are American, and it’s what the Fourth of July is all about.”

If consumer fireworks are legalized in Ohio, retailers should be required to provide safety information about how to properly use them, Hagan said.

Phantom Fireworks, a subsidiary of the Youngstown-based B.J. Alan Co., includes safety information with every purchase, said William Weimer, the company’s vice president and general counsel.

“It’s difficult to run public-service announcements on fireworks safety in a state where it’s illegal,” he said.

The lone fireworks change from last year is the form signed by those who purchase the items no longer requires people to provide a city and state where they’re supposedly taking the fireworks, Weimer said. That Ohio Division of the State Fire Marshal made the change to the form after talking with those in the fireworks industry, he said.

B.J. Alan officials want Ohio to change the consumer fireworks law to make it legal to use them at least during certain times of the year — around the Fourth of July, New Year’s, Memorial Day and Labor Day, Weimer said.

“Fireworks are safer, and the public is smarter when using them,” he said.

The use of all or certain consumer fireworks is legal in 45 states.

Attempts by The Vindicator to talk to more than 15 people buying fireworks at the Phantom Fireworks store in North Lima were unsuccessful. Nearly all declined to comment.

Those who did talk requested anonymity saying they were concerned about getting into trouble for breaking the state’s fireworks law. Those people said they disagree with the state’s fireworks law and want to see it be changed.


SEE ALSO:Despite economy, companies’ sales are booming.

OHIO LAW | What it says

Here are some tips to enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July:

- LEGAL: Trick and novelty fireworks, such as sparklers, snaps, glow snakes and smoke bombs, are legal. These can be sold and used legally in Ohio.

- OTHER FIREWORKS: Exhibitor fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, skyrockets, fountains and missiles, can be legally purchased from licensed wholesalers or manufacturers, but it is illegal to discharge these fireworks in Ohio.

- THE LAW: When purchasing these items, an affidavit must be signed stating that the fireworks will be taken to a designated out-of-state address. Ohio residents must take these fireworks out of the state within 48 hours, and out-of-state residents must do so within 72 hours.

- PENALTIES: Under Ohio’s fireworks law, stiff penalties can be applied for the illegal possession or discharge of fireworks. It is a first-degree misdemeanor for non-licensed individuals to discharge fireworks in Ohio, to falsify an application when purchasing fireworks, or to possess them for more than 48 or 72 hours without taking them to the designated out-of-state address. First-time offenders are subject to a $1,000 fine and six months’ imprisonment.

- DANGERS: All fireworks are inherently dangerous. Even novelty fireworks can cause serious injuries, including severe burns, injuries to the hands, eyes and face, blindness and hearing loss. For example, sparklers burn at up to 1,800 degrees, hot enough to melt gold. Most fireworks require a source of ignition, creating other hazards associated with supplying children with matches or lighters. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a show by a licensed exhibitor.

Source: The Ohio Department of Commerce


1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Fireworks sales are 'booming' and library systems are crumbling. Now that's truly "American!"

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2apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

The law is a joke. It was passed in exactly this form so that the politicians can promote themselves to both sides of the argument. For the anti fireworks people the politicos can say they passed a law to make it illegal in Ohio. Yet, they made the law so unenforceable that it's as though no law exist. I'll bet that the fireworks sellers line the pockets of the legislators to keep it just the way it is. As usual, money talks and safety walks.

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3Morrigan(83 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

The idiot who lives behind me must spend hundreds of $ on fireworks. We've been subjected to a barrage of explosions every evening while trying to enjoy our patio. He continues past 11 pm, when we are already in bed. Sorry, WE have jobs to go to in the morning. The worst part of all that is my husband is a Veteran. He can't stand loud noises; he heard plenty in his 3 tours. The 4th of July is always difficult for him, listening to explosions and booms for hours and days every year.
So, while I won't argue a person's right to celebrate however they want to, there has to be a solution for the neighbors who really don't appreciate the noise.

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4Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

That's quite an arsenal you've got in that cart, big fella. Apparently Barry "can't get enough."

Funny thing is that those cannons are illegal in PA.

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5Rokscout(310 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I understand exactly what your husband is going through. It is unfortunate. I would be happy to support people enjoying fireworks if it was limited to the 4th of July but the week before and after, every night.....it's a bit much. Personally I love fireworks, but also have a job and would like to sleep. What I really can't stand is the hoodlums a few houses over, who's parents leave them unattended to play with fireworks in the street. Every year the result is the kids end up shooting rockets at the neighbors houses purposely and who only know what else. Can't say anything to them because they are thugs and retort with threats.

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6AKAFR1(322 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Follow the campaign contributions and you will find out what politicians want this law changed.

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7OSUBuck16(12 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Fireworks should be controlled like Halloween. There should be certain hours where individuals can light them off, and it should be limited to adults. Police need to be free to respond to the higher incidence of drunk driving as well as the usual crimes without being constrained by noise violations and unlawful firework consumption.

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8teddybear6(38 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I don't understand how we could have one of the largest distributors of Fireworks in the country right here in our backyards and it be illegal to purchase themaand fire them off. I agree with OSUBuck, it should be controlled and limited to adults. People who abuse the right to shoot fireworks, should be fined accordingly. A certain few should not ruin the fun for the rest of us.

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9Morrigan(83 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

jrolley325, if it were one night a year, it would be fine. The moron neighbor started shooting off fireworks on Memorial Day and hasn't stopped yet. It's EVERY NIGHT. And it will continue until he runs out of shiny, noisy things to amuse himself with.

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10hubbardguy(32 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Wimer from B.J.Allen says in the article "it's difficult to run public service announcements on fireworks safety in a state where it's illegal". Bull! The fireworks retailers sure don't have any problem running hundreds of ads on television SELLING these fireworks in a state where they are illegal. All the TV stations I see running these ads are in Ohio. And before anybody uses the excuse that these ads reach across state lines, they are advertising fireworks that are illegal in PA too. As long as we are putting explosives into the hands of the general public let's at least tell them how to use them safely. Here in Hubbard it sounds like a war zone around the 4th and the police, who can see some of the massive displays from the police station, just ignore it. We are teaching our kids a terrible lesson when we say it is OK to decide to disregard a law. Either enforce the law or change it.

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11joebag09(342 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Change the law! It's stupid. Growing up I shot off all types of fireworks, some pretty potent. I'm still here. I've not been blinded, maimed or otherwise injured. I know fireworks can be very dangerous and I believe they must be used responsibly. I just don't see the need for government telling us what is safe.

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12metz87(893 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Amen t that. This is kinda ike a ghost law it is there but you can't see it. They dont want to change it beucase it is not impotnat to them. Heck it may never change and yet we will eb shooting them off everyday. Bam,Boom,Bang I say!!

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13steveevh5150(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Legalize the things. Safety first, don't store them where your family sleeps. An unattached garage or shed would suffice. Banning is stupid. It will never happen. People should have the right to purchase consumer classified fireworks. It's what the 4th is all about, to help celebrate our Independence. The people that built this country would be proud. It's people's way to salute them. Just be responsible about it and have fun. I'm 29 and have been shooting off the good stuff since I was 12. Every year I look forward to this, but I had responsible parents who showed me the responsible way to blow them off. I have all my body parts still intact. I'm a Marine, and I've shot stuff and set off stuff that would make fireworks run. But, setting off fireworks, since I can't throw hand grenades in my backyard, is my way of celebrating my freedom, and my duty I served for this country.

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14BigBangTheory55(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I believe that consumer fireworks should be legalized. My family has displayed fireworks for the past six years, and we enjoy every minute of it. In those six years of enjoying our nations holiday we have not had any injuries. Our neighbors enjoy watching as well. I do agree that their should be periods of limitations. They should only be used on certain dates: 4th of July, Memorial Day, New Years Eve. And of course used by adults 18 years of age and older, and also in a controlled area. Truly this is a law that needs to be changed. Make it legal. It doesn't make any sense how you can purchase fireworks in Ohio but cant set them off. Kinda dumb if you ask me. Let Americans enjoy the Holiday. HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY

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15adeeperlight(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I have to say that although I feel empathy/sympathy for my fellow combat veterans, banning fireworks on the 4th of July isn't fair to everyone else. They are celebrating the nation's birthday! Fireworks on the 4th of July and on New Year's shouldn't be against the law.

I'm a new resident to Ohio, and I have to say that the controlling attitude of the state & local governments here really makes me want to move elsewhere. You have to have yard sale permits, you can pretty much only use sparklers legally, you have to have permits, training, or a license to do just about anything; and the tax / levy system here is outright nuts.

Anyhow, my opinion is LEGALIZE them.

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16billysanmo21(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I just got done shooting off several bottle rockets and no one was hurt. I am also a combat veteran and got mortared on a daily basis. The people that think you need to pass a law everytime someone farts are the people ruining this country. Bottom line - fireworks are fun and, when used with common sense, are pretty safe.

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17Lifesnadir(164 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Of course the "law" is a joke. Police don't care to enforce it !

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18TAXEDOFF(118 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

watch this video you'll see what kind of slavery goes into making these fireworks


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19JMX35(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Fireworks are as American as baseball and apple pie. Celebrating our countries independence with fireworks has been a long standing tradition in this country and it shouldn't be stifled in any way. I say we change these outdated laws and make fireworks legal in Ohio.

Losing our freedom to celebrate our freedom doesn't surprise my wife and I anymore because now we've become so free that we actually have free speech "zones." This is no joke, we just saw one while at the zoo the other day. So I guess they are after our right to free speech now. Isn't that nice?

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20hubbardguy(32 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

In the article Representative Letson makes this mind boggling statement: "We shouldn't make laws that turn our citizenry into liars." What???? This is indeed a strange bit ot twisted logic. A law is just that, a law. No law, no matter how trivial, turns anybody into a liar. Only PEOPLE can turn THEMSELVES into liars, If a person knows that what they are doing is against a law then the law isn't to blame, the person is. This law needs to be changed or repealed but until that happens it is wrong to blame the law when somebody breaks it. The people who flaunt this law do so knowingly, to blame the law is foolish. Mr. Letson, as a person who participates in making laws, should know better. If he does not, then one has to wonder exactly what the people were thinking when they elected him.

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21UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

The law is a joke. It's time to stop and change the law. No foreworks can be purchased in Ohio. No signing your taking them out of state.

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22starofesther(168 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

No recession...have money for fireworks...

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23FatBear(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I used to work for a fireworks manufacture.
There were some people who were honest and would refuse to buy fireworks based on the fact that you would have to fib.
Some one will correct Me If I'm wrong here.
I look at it like this. When you sign that paper you are releasing the state of Ohio from liability. Your Ohio government does'nt want to say it is ok to blow your fingers off and yet it wants to retain the right to enforce the law when need be.
The law works just fine.
As far as taxing fireworks. Do we really need to add another tax. I have a buget and try to live within my means. The government should try it some time.
I'm all for fireworks and I will always be.
However; I am sympathetic with the people who have a normal jobs and our veterans who suffer from shell shock.
Thats why city people have noise ordenences and residents should respect that.
God Bless The U.S.A
I'm thankfull that we still have the freedom to purchase fireworks no mater how I have to go about it.

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24OldFashionedMama(77 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Fireworks are nice-before 11pm at night! The people across the street from us were setting off VERY large fireworks until well after midnight. I'm sorry but that is inconsiderate. Not to mention all the little spinners and rockets and other things they were lighting IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. There was so much trash in the road (and also in my yard) people going down the street hardly had any room to avoid driving through it. To be fair, they picked up most of the trash in the road when they were done, but my yard was still filled with junk, as were the yards of every other house around us. Again, I don't have anything against fireworks, but people need to be more considerate and use better judgment when using them. It isn't my job to pick up someone else's mess-I have enough to do!

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25nickcarmigiano(2 comments)posted 6 years, 3 months ago

The Ohio fireworks law is crap. It's time to legalize them. If you can sell them in Ohio you should be able to use them in Ohio. If someone gets hurt it's their own fault, NOT OHIO'S FAULT! If we choose to use them, we should be able to use them. And of course people are lieing about the whole bring themm out of state within 48 hours. I've done it before. I said I was going to Pennsylvainia. But I really just brought them home. SO what will happen now. I just told you that I broke the law, do something about it. Arrest me... NO... Fine me $1000 for being American and celebrating my independence. This is rediculous, someone really needs to do something. I mean im not OBSESSED with fireworks, but I think the whole law is a joke. And if theres complaints too bad. The 4th of July is only 1 NIGHT that I would like to set off some fireworks. I buy them I SHOOT THEM! Period.

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26nickcarmigiano(2 comments)posted 6 years, 3 months ago

So I commented before. But if you ask me, to be a cop it would be way to confusing and agervating to find the person who is shooting off fireworks. Like I said before. Whats the purpose of selling them in a state where you cant use them! I mean even politicians/poilce officers at the top think so too. How about this. Lets make 2010 the year of the legalization of fireworks!

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