TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – They’re not hard to find, but the fireworks that can be bought at stands that are popping up everywhere aren’t necessarily legal.
You read that right: most fireworks are illegal in Florida.
Florida allows the sale and use of non-aerial and non-explosive fireworks like novelties, fountains and sparklers.
Anything that leaves the ground or explodes is illegal to be sold to and used by residents here, and has been since 1941.
Even though you can’t set them off, the vendors on street corners can still sell to those taking them out of state or to Floridians willing to sign a form listing their intended purpose.
Between 2008 and 2018, the St. Petersburg Police Department responded to 4,820 calls about fireworks, which led to 41 reports.
Tampa police received 5,207 firework-related called during that time, but only made 14 incident reports leading to a handful of arrests for crimes such as drug possession. None of the arrests were because of fireworks.
Sounds simple, right? The problem is that thousands of people claim each year that the fireworks are being used for an agricultural purpose, like scaring off birds, and not violate the law.
Rep. Matt Gaetz tried for two years when he was in the legislature to legalize fireworks because the law is so weak.
But even in 2018, the legislature couldn’t get the law changed in Florida. Fireworks retailers don’t want it changed since the current one restricts competition and they lobbied heavily to prevent it from happening.
But don’t think signing a waiver to purchase fireworks gets you off the hook – it will not clear you of responsibility should you be caught illegally using fireworks.
Breaking the law and lying on the form is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, 11,100 Americans were injured due to fireworks in 2016, the latest year for which data is available. Of those injuries, 7,600 occurred between June 18 and July 18.
To celebrate safely, follow these precautions:
- Use sparklers and other legal novelties on a flat, hard surface. Do not light them on grass.
- Use sparklers in an open area. Keep children and pets at least 30 feet away from all ignited sparklers.
- Light only one item at a time and never attempt to re-light a “dud.”
- Don’t use any unwrapped items or items that may have been tampered with.
- Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on-hand for emergencies. It’s a good idea to drop used sparklers in a bucket of water.
- Only purchase fireworks from licensed vendors.
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
- Never carry sparklers in your pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.