Fireworks are illegal in Illinois. No, really

Fireworks show ends with "wall of fire"

Video shot on the Trinity River shows a fireworks display that ended with a "wall of fire" display.
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Video shot on the Trinity River shows a fireworks display that ended with a "wall of fire" display.

Exploding fireworks have been illegal in Illinois since 1942, punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and a year in jail. The strict law was effective until about 11 p.m. on July 4, 1943.

That’s when the rebellion started right here: “It seems a group of boys couldn’t hold back any longer. Armed with large firecrackers, which had been banned, they ‘rent the usual quiet of night with exploding missiles, keeping the police busy before the nuisance ceased,’” according to Brian Keller in his O’Fallon Progress history column.

So since the beginning we’ve ignored this law, committing a little act of rebellion to celebrate our independence. But for 76 years we’ve been a nanny state, telling people that exploding fireworks are illegal because you might hurt yourself.

But our state says it is fine to put sparklers in the hands of small children, giving them something that burns hot enough to melt gold.

Illinois is one of only four states that still bans firecrackers, bottle rockets, artillery shells and roman candles. Those items are available in every state surrounding us, and every year we cross the river to shop those big fireworks markets out near Six Flags and spend small fortunes in Missouri.

Do we still need a law that is a joke to the community and sends money out of state? Is safety really an issue with 205 casualties in Illinois out of a population of 12.8 million?

Illinois state Rep. Barb Wheeler doesn’t think so. The Republican recently introduced a bill so Illinois would get the economic boost and the taxes she sees her constituents spending in neighboring Wisconsin.

Another lawmaker projected fireworks could garner Illinois $15 million a year in taxes. That’s money we’re leaving on the table, and we all know how much Illinois needs the money.

But what rankles most is that Illinois is restricting personal freedom — because government knows best what is good for you — on the very day we are celebrating our freedoms.

State lawmakers should stop the paternalism. They should stop pretending fireworks are illegal in Illinois.