Niki Kelly: Time to blow up Indiana’s fireworks law


By Niki Kelly

Guest columnist

Watching a great fireworks display — punctuated by bright colors and trailing sparks — is a delight. But Indiana’s Wild West approach to fireworks is wreaking havoc and needs to be changed.

There is a middle ground between a month-long barrage of booms in tight quarters and a complete ban, and it’s time for state lawmakers to find it.

Before 2006, you could buy fireworks in Indiana but had to sign a waiver saying you wouldn’t set them off here. The wink-and-nod arrangement was admittedly stupid.

The Indiana General Assembly passed a bill — and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed it into law at a nearby fire station — allowing Hoosiers to set off fireworks on their own property. In addition, the state started charging a “public safety” tax on the sale of fireworks to fund $1 million in annual firefighter training.

In 2022, that tax brought in more than $5 million.

It was the latter point Daniels and legislators focused on, not the carnage left by the pyrotechnics.

Local government can crack down on fireworks use most of the year. But the state law protects certain days during the year in which all Hoosiers are allowed to blast them off with no consequences:

  • Between the hours of 5 p.m. and two (2) hours after sunset on June 29, June 30, July 1, July 2, July 3, July 5, July 6, July 7, July 8, and July 9;
  • Between 10:00 a.m. and midnight on July 4; and
  • Between the hours of 10 a.m. on December 31 and 1 a.m. on January 1.

You read that right, local units of government can do nothing about incessant fireworks for 11 days around the Independence Day holiday.

The fireworks lobby insists Hoosiers must be protected in their ability to blow $%&! up in case the weather the weekend before or after doesn’t cooperate. And that leads to days on end of noise and danger.

That could be easily tweaked — and a bill in 2022 would have done that, but didn’t receive a vote after being heard in committee. Police and local officials testified in support of clamping down on some of those days, and spoke of the strain fireworks put on emergency services.

“One day — not 11 days,” one now-retired lawmaker said during that hearing while noting a local barn that burned down due to fireworks. “I have replaced my back screen door three times because it petrifies my dog.”

But that’s not the worst part of the law. It’s that it doesn’t protect urban dwellers at all.

You can set your neighbors’ house on fire and disturb families for days on end. And police simply use the state law as an excuse to not respond to complaints, even when they are legitimate. There were numerous news reports of damage caused by fireworks in the last week, including one apartment complex fire in Indianapolis.

And what about injuries? I wish I could give you statistics, but lawmakers in 2018 decided to eliminate an annual report on fireworks injuries. At the time, the Indiana Department of Health said it’s because not all health care providers were filing reports so the data wasn’t comprehensive.

Fair point — but it did provide at least a minimum number of injuries and a trend line. For instance, one of the last reports found at least 238 Hoosiers were injured by fireworks between September 2016 and September 2017 — including a 1-year-old child — in the highest numbers of the past decade.

Now, I’m not saying I haven’t set off fireworks from time to time. But I live on several acres of land outside city limits with a fair amount of distance between my neighbors. I didn’t do it when I shared walls at my Indianapolis condo — out of both courtesy and safety concerns.

Lawmakers need to put Hoosiers before money and make common sense adjustments to the law, including limiting the number of days fireworks can be used and allowing densely populated cities to clamp down.

Niki Kelly is editor-in-chief of, where this commentary first appeared. She has covered Indiana politics and the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 for publications including the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Send comments to [email protected].

No posts to display