Republican, Democrat Re-File Bills To Legalize Some Smaller Fireworks In Massachusetts

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Massachusetts is not like the rest of the country.

It’s the only state where there are no forms of consumer fireworks that are legal.

That could in theory change in this legislative session — if a bill refiled in both the state House and state Senate passes.

The proposal — “An Act Relative To Novelty Sparklers,” filed by state Representative Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich) (HD.203) and state Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury) (SD.346) — is not a bill designed to legalize all sorts of fireworks. Instead, it aims to exempt a few types of fireworks from what the state considers illegal fireworks. The rest would remain illegal if the bills were to pass. 

The bill would do so by amending Chapter 148 Section 39 of Massachusetts General Law.

It would add about 85 words to the sixth paragraph of the statute that would legalize sparklers and small types of fireworks such as snakes and smoke bombs. 

Here is the part it wants to add to what’s legal:

wood stick or wire sparklers of not more than 100 grams of pyrotechnic mixture per item:  other hand held or ground based sparkling devices which are non-explosive and non-aerial, sometimes produce a crackling or whistling effect, and contain 75 grams or less of pyrotechnic composition per tube or a total of 500 grams or less for multiple tubes, snake and glow worms, smoke devices, or trick noisemakers which include party poppers, snappers and drop pops, each consisting of twenty-five hundredths grains or less of explosive mixture


Fireworks have been illegal in Massachusetts since 1943. Along with bonfires, the state outlawed them during World War II to keep the sky dark at night. The idea was to make it more difficult for the Germans to bomb American cities. However, that never happened and the law ban stayed in place after the war ended.

Supporters of legalizing fireworks argue that freedom includes using fireworks, that legalizing them would bring jobs and revenue to Massachusetts, that people use fireworks in the state regardless of whether or not they are legal, and that legalizing fireworks encourages safe use and decreases injuries. The fireworks industry in Indiana, a state with about 200,000 fewer residents than Massachusetts, creates about 4,000 seasonal jobs in a typical year, according to Indiana Public Media.

Hill told NewBostonPost in a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon that as a North Shore resident, he sees how much business the Bay State loses to New Hampshire because fireworks are not legal yet.

“I filed it out of frustration because growing up we had the sparklers, the snakes, all of that, but I can go to Seabrook, New Hampshire 20 minutes from my house and they’re selling sparklers to anybody at Walmart,” he said. “I love fireworks first and foremost. If it’s done in a reasonable way and you’re careful about it, you shouldn’t get hurt.”

“In my opinion, you’re not going to get hurt with sparklers unless you don’t know what you’re doing,” he added. “You hold them out and not at your face and you should be fine. And then with the snakes, usually you hit the top of the snake with the sparkler and it’s fine. We did that when we were 8, 9, 10 years old with our dad present and never in the woods. People in my area are going up there by the dozens. It’s not like it’s not happening because we don’t allow it.”

Hill also argued that legalizing fireworks would be good for businesses and provide much-needed revenue for the state.

“The accidents are far and few between with the smaller stuff,” Hill said. “If that’s all we can allow, O.K., fine. People are buying them now, using them now, there’s no enforcement around the Fourth of July unless it’s really out of control. The police have other things to worry about. We’re missing out on funding that we could be using for public safety training.”

Additionally, Hill said he supports eventually legalizing larger fireworks, although that’s not the point of his bill. He noted that setting off larger fireworks could be regulated the same way having a large fire outdoors is regulated, with a permit system and a minimum age to get one. He said the state could even have a booklet provided with each purchase of fireworks explaining how to safely use them.

Opponents of legalizing fireworks argue that they are dangerous, that they cause preventable injuries and fire damage, and that loud fireworks bother pets, children, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey explained to NewBostonPost last year why the Massachusetts Fire Service opposes any changes to the current law.

“The Fourth of July holiday is a busy time for firefighters,” Ostoskey told New Boston Post in an email message. “We are supervising the professional displays so that they are safe for spectators and licensed operators. While there may be fewer of these shows this year due to social distancing, we are busy responding to all types of fires and medical emergencies. In fact, the week of July Fourth is one of the busiest times of the year for fires. Firefighters, police officers, and medical professionals all ask you to help us help you during this pandemic, and leave the fireworks to the professionals.”

This marks the third straight session where Moore filed the bill and the fourth where Hill filed it. It has never come up for a vote.

It’s unclear if House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy), Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), and Governor Charlie Baker support firework legalization. Their offices could not be reached for comment on Wednesday or Thursday this week.

Moore also could not be reached for comment on Wednesday or Thursday this week.