As of Wednesday, July 1, large fireworks are now legal in Georgia. Prior to the passage of House Bill 110 in this year’s General Assembly, and the signing into law of the bill by Governor Nathan Deal, the only fireworks allowed in the state were smaller ones such as sparklers, poppers, snappers, glow snakes, and glow worms.
For years, larger fireworks were legal in surrounding states, but banned in Georgia. This led to residents having to travel to Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee or Florida to purchase fireworks. With the new law, Georgia will reap the tax revenue from the sale of fireworks. In addition to state and local taxes, a five percent excise tax will be imposed on firework sales.
But don’t think that because the larger fireworks are now legal in the state that you will be able to buy them anywhere. Distributors are required to have licenses to sell fireworks. The license fee is $5,000, with a $1,000 annual renewal fee. As of June 29, 404 distributors had applied and 314 had been approved. The Georgia Department of Insurance website shows that all Walmart locations have received fireworks permits.
Some of the temporary fireworks sellers may not receive their licenses until 2016. Their license fee is $500, and the state will be cracking down on unlicensed sellers, with a fine of up to $2,500 for every product sold.
Some of the other requirements of the new law are:
• Customers 18 years old and older are allowed to purchase the fireworks, and anyone who is 16 or 17 may possess and sell them if employed by a licensed retailer.
• Fireworks will not be allowed on school property or in school safety zones and should not be used indoors. They cannot be used within 100 yards of a nuclear power facility or a facility that sells gasoline or produces, refines, or blends gasoline for sale.
• According to the bill, fireworks can only be used between 10 a.m. and midnight any day of the week. On Jan. 1, July 3, July 4, and Dec. 31 fireworks can be used between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m.
Those who choose to purchase the larger fireworks are reminded to take safety precautions when using them.
• Always read the instructions carefully before attempting to light a fireworks item.
• Always wear proper clothing whenever you use fireworks. This includes cotton or denim clothing, long pants, eye protection, covered shoes, and (if necessary) ear protection.
• Never drink alcoholic beverages or take drugs when using fireworks.
• Keep fireworks away from open flames, including cigarettes. Do not smoke around fireworks.
• Keep your fireworks dry. Never attempt to light fireworks that have become wet.
• Store fireworks in a cool dry place, and away from children. Make sure small children cannot reach fireworks, and never allow a child to eat fireworks or put them in their mouth.
• Never allow children to use fireworks without direct adult supervision. Children should be instructed on the safe use of fireworks before allowing them to participate.
• Never throw or toss fireworks at another person or animal.
• Do not light fireworks in crowded areas.
• Never pick up unlit or unexploded fireworks.
• Don’t place any part of your body over the top of any fireworks device. Light all fireworks at arms length, and retire to a safe distance once the device has been ignited.
• When using fireworks that utilize mortar tubes, or repeaters (commonly referred to as cakes), be sure the device is securely mounted or secured in a way that prevents it from tipping over once it is lit.
• When lighting fireworks, consider the direction of the wind and wind speed. Never light fireworks if the wind is too strong.
• Never light or hold lit fireworks in your hand or any other part of your body.
• Never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
• Shoot fireworks one at a time, never try to light several fuses at one time.
• Use fireworks outdoors in approved areas only, and away from buildings and dry grassy areas.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.