Fireworks

LFDA Editor

In Brief:

  • New Hampshire allows adults over 21 to buy and set off some types of fireworks without a license.
  • Towns and cities can pass additional restrictions or limits, including banning fireworks outright.
  • There continues to be debate over what types of fireworks to allow or prohibit.
  • Pro: Fireworks are a patriotic American tradition that should continue to be legal for adults to use safely and responsibly.
  • Con: Fireworks can cause injuries or fires, and can be a frightening nuisance for children, pets, and people suffering from PTSD.

Issue Facts:

Fireworks Law in NH

To own or use fireworks in New Hampshire:

  • You must be at least 21 years old. (An exception is made for active-duty armed forces or national guard members, who can use fireworks if aged 18 or older.)
  • You must be on your own property to set off fireworks. Otherwise, you must have written permission from the property owner, or the owner must be present. (This includes permission from a landlord, if you’re on a rented property.)
  • You can only own or set off consumer fireworks, such as roman candles, wheels, parachutes, sparklers, and aerial spinners. (Learn more about permissible fireworks, and which ones are prohibited.)
  • You have to follow any town or city ordinances.   

Breaking these rules can result in a fine for a first offense, or misdemeanor charge for further offenses.

Different rules apply to commercial fireworks, such as bottle rockets, sky rockets, and missiles. These can only be set off by a pyrotechnician with both a license from the U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and a New Hampshire fireworks certificate.  You must also get a state permit for any display of commercial fireworks.

Violating state laws for display or commercial fireworks is a misdemeanor.

History of NH Fireworks Law

In recent years, most legislative activity has revolved around changes to specific types of fireworks that are or aren’t allowed. For example, in 2017, the Legislature removed a ban on firecrackers. A similar bill had passed in 2016, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Other types of fireworks that have been debated in New Hampshire in the past include reloadable mortars and toy smoke devices.

Federal Fireworks Law

Federal laws leave regulation of consumer fireworks up to the states, but have stricter rules for “display” or commercial fireworks. These are regulated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which requires anyone wishing to buy, sell, set off or transfer them to get a federal explosives license.

Power of Towns

NH law gives towns and cities the right to set restrictions on selling, owning or using fireworks.  

In some towns, fireworks cannot be set off without a permit. Others restrict use after certain hours or to particular days of the year, and a handful prohibit fireworks entirely.

To find out the rules in your town, click here or call your local police department.

Fireworks Laws in Other States

Other states have different approaches to regulating fireworks. These include

  • A complete ban on all consumer fireworks, only allowing licensed pyrotechnicians to buy or use them.
  • Only allowing sparklers or novelty fireworks.
  • Allowing some types of non-explosive fireworks, such as roman candles, but not aerial fireworks or explosives.
  • Restricting the sale and use of fireworks to certain times of year, around July 4th or New Year’s Eve.

For a full list of state laws, see the American Pyrotechnics Association directory.

Current Debates

List of permissible fireworks

There continues to be debate over specific types of fireworks that should be made legal or illegal for private use in New Hampshire. These include reloadable mortars, firecrackers, and toy smoke devices, among others.

Taxing fireworks

There have been several attempts in recent years to impose a sales tax on fireworks, with a portion of the proceeds reserved for funding fire standards training and emergency medical services. These moves have all been killed in the House.

Lower age limits

In New Hampshire, only individuals over age 21 can buy or use fireworks, though an exception is made for active duty armed forces or national guard members. However, several other states let children as young as 12 purchase fireworks. There has been no recent attempt to change the age restriction for purchasing fireworks in New Hampshire.

Alcohol and drug use

Some states, such Michigan, ban the use of fireworks by anyone under the influence of alcohol of drugs. New Hampshire law forbids selling fireworks to someone who appears to be under the influence, but doesn’t say anything about whether someone can set off fireworks after drinking. However, some town and city ordinances in the Granite State do ban mixing alcohol and fireworks.

Related Issues

Gun Laws

Drinking Age

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By LFDA Editor

 “NH should loosen restrictions on fireworks.”

  • Adults should have the right to celebrate responsibly with fireworks. Instead of passing laws that restrict everyone’s fun, the state should focus on punishing those who misuse them.
  • Banning fireworks would only create a black market where consumers could end up purchasing even larger or more dangerous items than “safe and sane” types available legally today.
  • A ban on fireworks would drive police to devote resources to enforcement, when their energy could be better spent cracking down on drugs and violent crime.
  • According to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there was no statistically significant increase in fireworks-related injuries between 1999 and 2014—a period during which many states lifted or eased their restrictions on fireworks.  This suggests that tougher fireworks laws don’t actually decrease the risk of injury.
  • Fireworks are responsible for starting only 4% of brush, grass and forest fires—only slightly higher than the percent caused by lightning strikes. 

"Against" Position

By LFDA Editor

“NH should tighten restrictions on fireworks.”

  • Fireworks are explosive devices that pose a threat to public safety, causing an average of around 14,000 brush, grass and forest fires each year.
  • Fireworks are a frequent cause of injuries, with roughly 11,900 people treated for them in U.S. emergency rooms in 2015.
  • The noise of fireworks can frighten children and pets, as well as causing problems for veterans with PTSD. This is particularly true of unplanned displays by untrained private citizens. They can also cause harm and distress to wildlife. 
  • Fireworks contain harmful chemicals such as barium and cadmium in both their smoke and debris, which pollute the air and water.
  • Fireworks displays should be left to trained professionals, who know how to minimize the risks of injury and fire, rather than amateurs. 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Signed by Governor

Exempts toy smoke devices from the prohibition on the sale or use of smoke bombs.

Signed by Governor

Legalizes the sale of firecrackers.

Killed in the Senate

Allows licensed fireworks sellers to sell smoke bombs.

Vetoed by Governor

Legalizes the sale of firecrackers.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the sale or possession of sky lanterns.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the retail sale of reloadable aerial shell fireworks.

Signed by Governor

Transfers regulatory authority over explosives, including fireworks, from the Director of State Police to the Commissioner of Safety.

Should NH loosen restrictions on fireworks?

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Issue Status

SB 23, legalizing firecrackers, was signed by Gov. Chris Sununu in June. 

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