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New fireworks law removes largely ignored provisions

Several changes in state law have loosened seldom-observed regulations governing the use and sale of fireworks. But the changes aren’t all give and no take.
Lawmakers have added a five-percent ‘safety fee’ to fireworks purchases in addition to state sales tax.
The fireworks law in Indiana and elsewhere has been characterized by loopholes, noncompliance and a lack of enforcement. Anything that went airborne or exploded was previously illegal to use in Indiana.
The old law, however, left room for civic organizations, like the Kiwanis Club, to buy fireworks and hold public displays. And so the industry united to form the Indiana Fireworks Users Association, and began charging customers $2 for a permit to use their special discharge locations.
Or in some cases, retailers offered another option, a document purchasers would sign stating they would take the fireworks out of the state in a specified number of days.
‘You had two possible choices,’ said Chris Mattingly, owner of Boo & Booms on Capitol Avenue in Corydon, explaining that both choices involved agreeing to take the fireworks elsewhere.
‘And of course nobody did that. It was one of those things that nobody ever looked at or checked, and as long as you shot them off around the Fourth of July season, nobody cared,’ Mattingly said.
The new law allows use of fireworks on one’s own property or where permission has been granted by the property owner.
‘I’m glad to see that people will be allowed to shoot fireworks all year round,’ Mattingly said.
And, ‘The new law did remove the requirement for fireworks purchasers to sign a document stating that they will take the fireworks out of state before setting them off,’ said Indiana State Fire Marshal Roger Johnson.
That should also end or limit the sale of IFUA permits, some 130,000 of which were sold annually.
The law will also help fund public safety programs, such as firefighter training, through the collection of the new five-percent safety fee on the sale of all fireworks beginning Thursday.
A portion of the funds will also be used to establish a State Disaster Relief Fund, which will help cover the costs of the state’s response to emergencies or disasters.
Combined with state sales tax, consumers can expect an additional 11 percent added to the cost of fireworks at the register.
‘It’s going to have a direct impact on the end consumer,’ said Mattingly, who has chosen to cover the cost of the safety fee during its first year at Boo & Booms ‘with the hope that we’ll pick up some increased volume and more people will realize that we’re here,’ he said.
He also intends to make his customers aware of the tax for future Independence Day holidays.
The law also includes requirements regarding where and when consumers can set off fireworks, as well as requirements for structures where fireworks are sold.
The purchase of fireworks is limited to persons 18 years of age or older and children may possess or use any kind of firework only when an adult is present.
Penalties for violating the fireworks law can range from a Class A misdemeanor up to a Class C felony in the case of the reckless or intentional use of fireworks that results in a person’s death.
Locations where fireworks are sold must be registered with the IDHS Division of Fire and Building Safety, unless it is a permanent structure where only Section 8 fireworks such as sparklers and ground spinners are sold. The locations must also comply with safety requirements specified in the law for various types of structures.
Each fireworks retail sales location must be inspected by an employee of the IDHS Division of Fire and Building Safety, or an employee of a local fire department that conducts the inspection in accordance with policies and guidelines of the State Fire Marshal.
At Boo & Booms where Mattingly said, ‘We carry everything from sparklers and smokeballs to the 500 gram grand finale kegs that shoot multiple explosions into the air,’ there is an emphasis on safety, he said.
He gives out safety guidelines and sells safety items like protective eyewear and then tailors the safety aspect to Halloween when fall rolls around.
‘We want people to be able to come back next year with all their digits and limbs,’ he said.