With the 4th of July quickly approaching, Pennsylvania residents once again have their mind on our crazy fireworks laws. Because it is illegal for Pennsylvania residents to buy most fireworks within the state, you can often find Pittsburgh area residents in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia filling up their cars with plenty of items to light up the night sky over the holiday weekend. What's even crazier is that Ohio and West Virginia boast similar fireworks laws - the stores can't sell them to in-state residents, and buyers are required to sign a form stating that they will get them out of the state within 48 hours. So you'll find PA residents buying fireworks in Ohio and West Virginia, and vice versa. Does that make any sense?
Pennsylvania law describes "fireworks" as anything combustible that can be detonated causing loud noise and visual effects. Basically if it makes a loud boom or goes airborne, it is illegal to shoot off within the state of Pennsylvania without a permit. What is legal to purchase and use in your backyard without a license includes novelty items such as sparklers, snakes, toy pistols and paper caps (typically the packages you find in roadside and parking lot tents and stands with names like Grave Diggers, Snapper Bombs, Screamin' Demons and Flaming Wheels of Destruction). Licensed fireworks vendors within the state can also sell larger consumer fireworks with up to 500 grams of explosives (fireworks, rockets and mortars) to adults with out-of-state ID, but cannot sell them legally to Pennsylvania residents without a display permit from their local municipality.
Of course, if you want to stay within the law and still shoot off fireworks, then you can apply to your local township or borough for a fireworks permit. Township officials will generally need to verify that the person applying for the permit is a competent operator, and they may send someone to inspect the proposed display site to ensure that it is safe. You will likely be required to post a bond of $500 or more. Fireworks permits are completely within the regulation of local municipalities, and they aren't required to allow fireworks under any circumstances. Some municipalities even have local ordinances that do not permit devices that require striking a match. Using prohibited fireworks in Pennsylvania without a permit is a summary offense punishable by a fine of not more than $100 for state residents.
Of course, some fireworks such as Cherry bombs, M-80s, M-100s and Silver Salutes are federally illegal and extremely dangerous.
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