Florida’s bizarre fireworks law still in place


It’s almost Independence Day, which in Florida means: Time to scare some birds.

Although you can buy fireworks in the state, they’re not actually legal here.

Indeed, The Tampa Tribune in 2014 called fireworks sales in Florida an “institutionalized charade,” leading one lawmaker to call for “more freedom (and) less fraud.”

Retail sales are allowed only because of a 60-year-old loophole in the law, the only known one of its kind in the country.

That allows “fireworks … to be used solely and exclusively in frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.”

Indeed, anyone who’s bought fireworks from a roadside tent over the years may remember signing a form acknowledging the buyer falls under an agricultural, fisheries or other exemption.

For the record, fireworks can also be used for “signal purposes or illumination” of a railroad or quarry, “for signal or ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports, or for use by military organizations.”

Enforcement is up to local police and fire agencies, and case law says fireworks vendors aren’t responsible for verifying buyers actually intend to chase off egrets or light up a track meet.

Every so often, lawmakers file bills either to remove or tighten certain exemptions, or to just legalize retail sales of fireworks. None have made it into law.

Three states have outright bans on consumer fireworks: Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, according to the American Pyrotechnic Association.

In Florida, state Rep. Matt Gaetz once tried to legalize Roman candles, bottle rockets and other fireworks for recreational use. The Fort Walton Beach Republican is now running for Congress.

And state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, pushed a similar bill prohibiting sales of fireworks and sparklers only to children under 16 and requiring other buyers to sign a disclaimer saying they know fireworks are dangerous.

“Florida law on fireworks is absurd,” he told FloridaPolitics.com. “Current law forces law-abiding parents to commit fraud by signing forms declaring the fireworks they buy won’t be used as fireworks to celebrate freedom with their kids, but to scare birds off crops.”

Current law “does not promote public safety and should be repealed to simply allow fireworks to be sold,” he added. “More freedom, less fraud.”

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


  • bob greene

    July 5, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    this nonsense has been going on for years…perjury on the waiver form, state law violations, local ordinance violations and I’ll bet a lot of contributions to lawmakers by the fireworks industry.

  • Lori Studt

    July 5, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Well I agree. Except there should not be this loophole in the law period! Have you had to live in a neighborhood where the “celebration of freedom” lasts for 6 days? Starting early morning and ending at 2:00 am? Have you had to lose sleep and wake up at 4:45am and conduct yourself as an RN for a 13 hour shift on little sleep? Have you had to comfort a pitiful, scared border collie who cannot even go in her own backyard due to the explosives being launched in your neighborhood? These fireworks are not the same as they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago! These are very powerful, very dangerous explosives that are being detonated in very populated neighborhoods. It is ridiculous that these explosives are even allowed to be sold. It would not be so bad if people only utilized them for one night and stopped at a reasonable hour, but they do not! Furthermore, we have more and more veterans who are home and suffer from PTSD. I cannot imagine what it is like for these soldiers to endure the sounds of “war”. Yes, war! That is exactly what it sounds like in many neighborhoods including mine.
    You sir are out of touch and are mistaken if you believe it should be allowed to continue with less oversight. I for one endorse shutting these firework stores down! Of course I do not have my hands in their pockets as I am sure many of our politicians do. There are numerous injuries caused by these explosives. Our first responders have more important things to be doing. These people are not “celebrating our freedom” as you ridiculously claim. They are handling powerful explosives and discharging them in a public place. This should not be allowed to continue!

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