Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Illinois surrounded by states that sell legal fireworks

By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network

(ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK) – The cost of getting fireworks in any of Illinois’ neighboring states depends on what kind of buy-one, get-one sales that fireworks stands are running. In Illinois, the cost of getting fireworks could land you behind bars.

Consumers can only legally use snaps, snakes and sparklers for your Independence Day celebrations in state. Go to any of the neighboring states and you can have your pick of an array of things that go boom like bottle rockets, roman candles and even larger displays worthy of a backyard spectacular.

Iowa legalized fireworks last year for a certain window around specific holidays, including Independence Day.

Justin Bartlett is managing partner of Crossroads Fireworks, which has two locations. His location in Bettendorf, Iowa, right across from Moline, sees about half of its business from Illinoisans.

“We have people come up from Peoria, we had a couple come from Rockford,” Bartlett said. “We have people from really all over this chunk of Illinois who find out, ‘Oh good, you’re here, and you’re way closer.”

Bartlett said it’s not first-time fireworks buyers, it’s people who realized his Bettendorf store is closer to them than stores in Missouri where fireworks also are legal.

In Illinois, possession without a permit from the government of certain fireworks that can be purchased legally in every neighboring state can land you a Class 3 felony, up to $10,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.

Illinois state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said other states are doing well selling to Illinois customers. Rose said his repeated efforts to legalize fireworks and possibly bring in up to $15 million in extra revenue for the state have been thwarted by Sen. President John Cullerton’s opposition to the idea.

“He doesn’t want to trust people to make their own decision,” Rose said. “On the other hand, people have already made the decision to go across state lines anyway, so whatever he’s worried about is already happening.”

Cullerton’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

In 2017, the Illinois State Fire Marshal reported there were 204 fireworks-related injuries and one fatality between June 23 and July 20. That was down from 2016 totals of 240 from the same period the year before.

A representative with the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office said Iowa doesn’t have a mechanism to collect injury data.

The Missouri state fire marshal’s office didn’t have information immediately available because there’s “no statute requiring reporting of fireworks injuries to the Division of Fire Safety.”

In Indiana, the state department of public health compiles the data and reported 238 firework-related injuries in 2017. The majority were male and more than a third were younger than 18.

In Wisconsin, the state’s public health department says there were 102 emergency department visits with 15 hospitalizations caused by fireworks. The majority were men. A third were under the age of 17.

The National Fire Protection Agency said in 2015 “U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks-related injuries.” The agency’s website said there’s an average of three deaths a year from structural fires caused by fireworks.

Bartlett asserted most fireworks injuries are likely from “some guy selling it out of his car … they’re not using stuff that they bought at a reputable store.

“You have to so grossly misuse [fireworks] that it’s almost on purpose,” Bartlett said. “There’s a lot of things that people do to get hurt … there are a lot more people killed and injured riding bicycles than there are using fireworks.”

The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration said there were 840 bicyclists killed in 2016 from motor vehicle crashes.

Ultimately, Rose said it’s about freedom.

“Part of liberty and freedom is being able to do what you want to do in the confines of your own backyard,” Rose said, “and all of our surrounding states are enjoying those freedoms.”

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