Fireworks Group: Regulations Taking the Fun Out of the Fourth

The American Pyrotechnics Association says that this year could be one of the biggest ever for fireworks displays. So what's the problem? Well, the group isn't exactly happy with the Obama administration's myriad fireworks regulations.

You know that the Fourth of July is here when you see a press release from the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) burst forth from the news wires.

And that press release is, um, explosive, with the association predicting that sales of consumer fireworks this year could top $725 million. But that good news isn’t all that’s on APA’s mind these days, as the organization’s executive director, Julie Heckman, makes clear.

It would be great if we could have one agency that took care of everything, and I’m sure there are other industries that are also feeling that pain, but it has been very significant.

In an interview with Politico this week, Heckman said the current presidential administration has taken a heavy-handed approach to fireworks regulation, and that’s caused frustration for those in the pyrotechnics business.

“I’ve been working with the industry for a very long time, 26 years,” she told the publication. “I have never seen as many rulemaking initiatives as I have with this administration. It has just been completely insane.”

Part of the problem is that the industry isn’t regulated by a single agency but by many—including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Consumer Product Safety Commission; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and the Transportation Department.

“It would be great if we could have one agency that took care of everything, and I’m sure there are other industries that are also feeling that pain, but it has been very significant,” she added.

On the other hand, the association is seeing better luck at the state level with fireworks regulations. Just three states (Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Jersey) have banned consumers from owning the devices, and four others allow only sparklers. The rest, however, have varying degrees of legality for consumer fireworks, according to CNBC. These regulations have loosened up in recent years, something Heckman credits to the common practice of people bringing fireworks across state lines.

The Busy Season

Another association that tends to be pretty active this time of year is on the other side of the debate. The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, which was founded by the National Fire Protection Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, has long taken a stance against consumers’ use of fireworks—a position that isn’t changing this year, either.

“Knowing the harm fireworks inflict each year, particularly on young people, we urge everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals, who are trained to safely put on spectacular displays. It is by far the safest way to enjoy them,” Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of outreach and advocacy, said in a recent news release.

For her part, APA’s Heckman will be busy ensuring there aren’t any unanticipated explosions—just plenty of controlled ones.

“We love dealing with the press, the media, but there is always that concern that your phone’s going to ring with potentially bad news that something went wrong somewhere,” she told Politico. “We’re prepared for it, we pray it doesn’t happen, and we just want to get through July 5th and read the headlines that everything went off perfectly.”

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!