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Celebrate America's Independence Safely on the Fourth of July

The Justice Department would like to wish you and your family a fun and safe Fourth of July holiday. To ensure this we encourage the safe and legal use of consumer fireworks to celebrate our nation’s independence this July 4th.  Fireworks and the Fourth of July celebrations go hand-in-hand. However, the Department wants you to enjoy the holiday safely. Each year illegal or improperly used fireworks cause severe injuries, or in some cases even death. Not all fireworks sold during this holiday season are safe and legal. Some, including “display fireworks,”  the large fireworks typically used in shows under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnician, require that any person engaging in the business of importing, manufacturing, dealing in, or otherwise receiving display of these fireworks first obtain a Federal explosives license or permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for the specific activity. You should always use caution in purchasing fireworks to avoid contact with potentially illegal and deadly explosives. Addressing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Annual Fireworks Safety Press Conference and Demonstration, on June 22, 2011, Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs and Services for the ATF said legitimate fireworks are legal for a reason.
“Legitimate fireworks manufacturers and distributors take precautions,” said Herbert. “These precautions enhance your personal safety and the safety of the workers who produce and handle the fireworks. These precautions enhance the safety of the communities in which makers of explosives manufacture or use fireworks.”
Illegal explosives are not, and should not, be marketed as consumer fireworks. Do not be fooled. While many such explosives like cherry bombs, M-80s, silver salutes and quarter sticks are associated with the fireworks season and can seem like fun, they are inherently dangerous because of their composition and unpredictability. These devices meet no safety standards and often have a coating of dangerous explosive dust which may cause them to unexpectedly detonate when exposed to friction, heat, or simply being bumped. Some signs to look out for that a device may be an illegal explosive are:
  •   It resembles a roll of coins with a fuse.
  •   It consists of a cardboard tube or oddly shaped item wrapped in brown paper and filled with an explosive material.
  •   It is red, silver, or brown in color.
  •   It may be 1 to 6 inches long and up to an inch or more in diameter.
  •   It is sold on the street or out of the back of someone’s vehicle.
Speaking to how consumers can protect themselves against illegally manufactured and distributed fireworks, Herbert said it is the consumer’s responsibility to be informed.
"Know the difference before purchasing fireworks. Help us. If you choose to enjoy consumer fireworks, be careful. Always supervise children, and adhere to federal, state and local laws, regulations, and ordinances. The consequences of not following this guidance can be severe.”
Once again, we ask that the public report the manufacture or sale of illegal fireworks or explosive devices to local law enforcement or by calling the toll-free ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).
Updated April 7, 2017