This Fourth of July, many people are looking forward to spending time with their family and friends, barbequing, and most of all, lighting off some fireworks. This is especially true because of Gov. Cuomo’s lift on New York’s ban of fireworks. But before you start celebrating our Nation’s Independence Day this 4th of July you should ask yourself, “Are all fireworks really legal?”

Fireworks have been legalized for purchase in 37 counties across New York, including Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Rensselaer County, but this only includes a specific type of firework. In 2014, Gov. Cuomo approved the sale of sparkling fireworks only. According to New York’s Penal Law, a sparkling firework includes any “ground-based or hand-held devices that produce a shower of white, gold, or colored sparks as their primary pyrotechnic effect.”[1] These fireworks may also “include a colored flame, an audible cracking effect, an audible whistle effect, and smoke.”[2]

But the statute specifies that these sparkling devices “do not rise into the air, do not fire inserts or projectiles into the air and do not explode[.]”[3] Such fireworks as “torpedoes, skyrockets and rockets” which explode or combust in the air, as well as roman candles and bombs, are defined by law as “dangerous fireworks” and are still illegal.[4] Further, it is a crime to provide sparkling fireworks to a person less than 18 years of age, even in counties where sparkling fireworks have been legalized.[5] Therefore, a parent could potentially face legal consequences for providing sparkling fireworks to their kids.

So why legalize only one type of firework? Other than increase revenue from taxes, the State hopes to deter people from making homemade fireworks. This phenomenon has come into recent time due to accidents like New York Giant, Jason Pierre-Paul’s. There, the Pro Bowl defensive lineman attempted over and over to light a firework that was beginning to look like a dud, before it suddenly exploded in his hand. Paul suffered serious injury to his hand, eventually getting his index finger amputated during one of many surgeries. This is one of many stories. In 2015, the government reported that there were 7,000 firework related injuries between June 20, 2014, and July 20, 2014. Of these injuries, 31% were caused by an “unspecified” firework device.

By allowing citizens to legally buy a safe type of firework, hopefully the number of firework related accidents leading to personal injury will decrease. But this needs to be a community effort as well. Parents and friends must exhibit firework safety in their own actions, in order to teach our youth how to properly handle fireworks. LaMarche Safranko Law represents clients who have suffered personal injuries due to fireworks. If you or someone close to you has been injured by fireworks, please call our office today.

[1] Penal Law § 270.00(1)(vi)(1)(2016).
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Penal Law § 270.00(1)(vi)(2)(B)(b)(2016)
[5] Sparklers, New York State Police (May 31, 2016).