(WGHP) — If you’re hoping to celebrate Independence Day with a bang, keep in mind that some could blast you into some legal trouble.
In North Carolina, some fireworks fall into the category of “pyrotechnics” and require additional permits to use. Some fireworks, however, don’t fall into that category and should be fine for you to use.
This article is meant to help give you a general idea of the state’s fireworks laws, but you should always check with the local fire or police department to find out which ordinances apply in your area.
What fireworks are legal in North Carolina?
The short answer is that you should have no problem using wire sparklers, snake and glow worms, smoke devices, party poppers, string poppers and snappers/drop pops, according to North Carolina General Statute.
You can also use the kind of fireworks that “emit showers of sparks and sometimes a whistling or crackling effect when burning” so long as they do not detonate, explode, spin, propel themselves through the air, contain more than 75 grams of chemical compound per tube or contain more than a total of 200 grams if multiple tubes are used.
Here’s the exact language used in the general statute:
- Explosive caps designed to be fired in toy pistols, provided that the explosive mixture of the explosive caps shall not exceed twenty-five hundredths (.25) of a gram for each cap.
- Snake and glow worms composed of pressed pellets of a pyrotechnic mixture that produce a large, snake-like ash when burning.
- Smoke devices consisting of a tube or sphere containing a pyrotechnic mixture that produces white or colored smoke.
- Trick noisemakers which produce a small report designed to surprise the user and which include:
- A party popper, which is a small plastic or paper item containing not in excess of 16 milligrams of explosive mixture. A string protruding from the device is pulled to ignite the device, expelling paper streamers and producing a small report.
- A string popper, which is a small tube containing not in excess of 16 milligrams of explosive mixture with string protruding from both ends. The strings are pulled to ignite the friction-sensitive mixture, producing a small report.
- A snapper or drop pop, which is a small, paper-wrapped item containing no more than 16 milligrams of explosive mixture coated on small bits of sand. When dropped, the device produces a small report.
- Wire sparklers consisting of wire or stick coated with nonexplosive pyrotechnic mixture that produces a shower of sparks upon ignition. These items must not exceed 100 grams of mixture per item.
- Other sparkling devices which emit showers of sparks and sometimes a whistling or crackling effect when burning, do not detonate or explode, do not spin, are hand-held or ground-based, cannot propel themselves through the air, and contain not more than 75 grams of chemical compound per tube, or not more than a total of 200 grams if multiple tubes are used. (1947, c. 210, s. 5; 1955, c. 674, s. 1; 1993, c. 437.)
When would I need a permit, and how do I get one?
Getting a permit is complicated, and, if you’re just planning a small gathering of family and friends, you’re better off sticking to the kind of fireworks discussed above.
In North Carolina, you need a permit not only to fire off “pyrotechnics” but to possess them at all. The state defines pyrotechnics as any fireworks and explosives “which are used for exhibitions or amusement purposes” that don’t fall into one of the categories above. To be clear, that means you would need a permit to use roman candles, bottle rockets and any aerial fireworks, among others.
Permits are generally handled by a county’s board of commissioners, but the county does have the power to adopt a resolution to let cities issue permits. That means you’ll want to check to see whether your city or county would be in charge in your particular instance. In order to get a permit, you must complete training and licensing and meet a number of other requirements for insurance and safety.
Anyone who breaks North Carolina fireworks laws will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor if outdoors or a Class 1 misdemeanor if indoors.
Can I bring fireworks to Virginia?
Virginia and North Carolina have pretty similar fireworks laws, but you’ll want to be very careful to avoid bringing in fireworks that are illegal in the city or county you are visiting. For example, amateur fireworks are banned in Richmond, Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
According to Cornell Law School, it is a federal crime to transport fireworks into a state “knowing that such fireworks are to be delivered, possessed, stored, transshipped, distributed, sold, or otherwise dealt with in a manner or for a use prohibited by the laws of such state specifically prohibiting or regulating the use of fireworks.”
In other words, if you buy fireworks in North Carolina and bring them to Virginia, you better be sure those fireworks are legal where you’re going or you could face federal charges.
The Virginia Department of Fire Programs has a list of all of the “permissible fireworks” for 2022. But, because towns, cities and counties may ban the use of certain or all fireworks, you should still check with local law enforcement to learn the specific local laws.
You can see the full list of Virginia’s “permissible fireworks” for 2022 here. The document is organized by the distributor, such as Phantom Fireworks and TNT Fireworks.
Can I bring fireworks to South Carolina?
If you buy fireworks legally in North Carolina, you should be in the clear to bring them into South Carolina. As always, however, double check that the city or county you are visiting doesn’t have more restrictive laws.
In South Carolina, state-level laws are more relaxed when it comes to which fireworks you can buy. Unlike North Carolina, South Carolina will allow you to buy aerial fireworks so long as you’re at least 16 years old.
But there are still limits! According to WIS, it is illegal to have “fireworks containing pyrotechnic composition in excess of two grains, designed to produce a loud and piercing effect, including:
- “ground salutes” or “cherry bombs”
- TNT salutes
- “bulldog salutes”
- small bottle rockets less than 1/2 inch in diameter and 3 inches long; all bottle rockets are not permitted.
Can I buy fireworks out of state and bring them back to North Carolina?
You probably already know the answer to this question. If the fireworks are illegal in North Carolina, it’s illegal to bring them into the state from elsewhere.
Again, it is a federal crime to transport fireworks into a state “knowing that such fireworks are to be delivered, possessed, stored, transshipped, distributed, sold, or otherwise dealt with in a manner or for a use prohibited by the laws of such state specifically prohibiting or regulating the use of fireworks.”
So, for example, if you buy Roman candles in South Carolina, you cannot bring them into North Carolina.
Fireworks laws are pretty similar between Virginia and North Carolina, but it’s still best to make sure that whatever fireworks you bought in Virginia will be legal in your city or county.
The bottom line
Keep in mind that even the fireworks that are legal may still be dangerous. Here are a few vital safety tips from TNT Fireworks to make sure you can spend your Independence Day with your friends and family, not in the emergency room.
- Children should not handle fireworks.
- You should always read the label of a firework device before igniting it.
- You should not use drugs or alcohol before setting off fireworks.
- Make sure you have water or a fire extinguisher readily available.
- Do not point fireworks at people or put any part of your body over or near fireworks.
- Keep a safe distance of about 25 to 40 feet from fountains and ground-based fireworks.
- See more safety tips on the TNT Fireworks website.