Lots of us will celebrate Independence Day by watching fireworks – usually the big shows put on by people who have licenses to shoot off commercial fireworks.
But if you're in the market for a friendly little backyard fireworks show, which ones are you allowed to use?
It's a tricky question because fireworks regulations vary from one state to another. But here in Minnesota there's a basic rule of thumb that answers the "legal or not?" question: If it explodes or if it leaves the ground, it's not legal to buy in Minnesota.
That means things like firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, and missiles are no-nos.
What does that leave for us to use?
Minnesota's Department of Public Safety has a longer list of what's OK, but here are some of the standbys:
- illuminating torches
- ground spinners
- novelties like snakes, glow worms, or noisemakers
Why do we limit which fireworks are available? Well, the Public Safety Department says even with our non-exploding, non-airborne rules, there were still more than 700 injuries caused by fireworks last year.
Some fine print
The safety/danger of fireworks are measure by something called the grams of pyrotechnic composition.
If those pyrotechnic grams get really high, even the items we just said were OK could become illegal. Sparklers have to be under 100 grams, other stuff can't be more than 75 grams per item or 500 per tube, the American Pyrotechnics Association explains.
For those of you not in Minnesota on the Fourth, the Pyrotechnics Association has a state-by-state list of fireworks laws.
Also, if you have any TNT Red, White, and Blue Smoke fireworks – sold in states including Wisconsin – be sure not to use those. They've been recalled because they explode unexpectedly.