Did you notice more fireworks than usual in your neighborhood this past Fourth of July? While hand-held sparklers and ground-based sparkling devices have been legal here since 2005, this was the first year that all consumer fireworks were legal in Georgia. Consumer fireworks are defined as any small fireworks device designed primarily to produce visible or audible effects by combustion as approved by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Although they are most popular around Independence Day, they may be used to celebrate a wide range of occasions, from other holidays to weddings to picnics.
Effective July 1, 2015, the Peach State allows for the sale and use of:
- Sky Rockets and Bottle Rockets
- Missile-Type Rockets
- Helicopter and Aerial Spinners
- Roman Candles
- Multi-Aerial Mine and Shell Devices
- Aerial Shell Kits
After Georgia and New York legalized fireworks this year, they remained banned in only three states (New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Delaware), down from over 30 states in the 1990s. This growth is due in large part to economics – states lose tax revenue to other states when residents cross the border to neighboring states to buy them. By way of example, the new Georgia law assesses a five percent excise tax, state taxes, local taxes and a licensing fee (to be used for public safety purposes) on each sale. The nation’s largest distributor of fireworks, TNT Fireworks, also wasted no time in announcing that its products are available at more than 250 locations throughout the state, including retail.
Along with this new right comes the responsibility to use them safely.
In fact, the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner reports that two-thirds to three-fourths of all fireworks injuries occur during the four-week period surrounding Independence Day. Furthermore, on the Fourth of July itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined. In 2011, they started 17,800 fires across the country, costing $32 million.
Anytime you wish to celebrate with fireworks, please use common sense and follow a few guidelines:
- Read and follow the directions.
- Always have a sober adult in charge.
- Use fireworks only outdoors.
- Buy legal fireworks only from a licensed seller – don’t try to make your own.
- Light only one firework at a time, and wear safety glasses.
- Never relight a firework that malfunctions.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a firework device – even when lighting.
- Never give fireworks to small children.
- Don’t aim or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep spectators at a safe distance.
- Have a working garden hose and/or bucket of water nearby in case of emergencies.
- Protect your pets — animals are often frightened by the sounds of fireworks so keep them indoors, secure and away from the loud, sudden noises.
- Check with your local city and county governments – there may be certain areas where consumer fireworks are not permitted even though they are legal in the state.
If fireworks have injured you or damaged your property, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Macon, GA-based Mann Law Firm. We are ready to provide you with a free and confidential initial consultation. Contact us by calling (478) 742-3381 or using our online form.