July 1, 2020 8:00 am
As the weather warms and pandemic restrictions continue, nights across the country have been disrupted by fireworks. For weeks now, police departments nationwide have reported record numbers of complaints about fireworks disturbing sleep, causing dogs to bark and babies to cry, and sparking fears of gunshots.
In Boston, alone, police received nearly 1,500 fireworks complaints in the first week of June—compared to 22 for the same week last year. Worcester has set up an anonymous fireworks tip line after police received a record 500 calls about the disturbances.
Why now? There are plenty of explanations and even a conspiracy theory, which I’ll spare you. The most probable reason, however, is simpler: boredom from being stuck indoors.
Sale, Possession, and Use of Fireworks Are Prohibited in the Commonwealth
Regardless, here’s what you need to know about fireworks in Massachusetts: Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 148, S.39, the use, sale, or possession of fireworks in the Commonwealth is illegal. Full stop.
The statute defines fireworks to include “compositions, substances or other articles and shall also include blank cartridges or toy cannons in which explosives are used, the type of toy balloon which requires fire underneath to propel the same, firecrackers, cherry bombs, silver salutes, M–80’s, torpedoes, sky-rockets, Roman candles, sparklers, rockets, wheels, colored fires, fountains, mines, serpents, or other fireworks of like construction or any fireworks containing any explosive or flammable compound, or any tablets or other device containing any explosive substance.” Yes, all of that.
Here are the penalties:
Conviction for selling fireworks carries a fine of $100 to $1,000, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. All fireworks will be confiscated. Note that the police do not need a warrant for this offense.
Conviction for possessing or using fireworks carries a fine of $10 to $100. There is no arrest for this offense, but all fireworks will be confiscated.
In either case, the confiscated fireworks are forfeited to the state.
For the near future, the fireworks boom (sorry) surely will continue through the July 4th weekend and possibly well beyond. Had enough? Worcester’s anonymous fireworks tip line is 508-799-1003, or text tip to 274637. There’s also the more personal approach: speak to your fireworks-firing neighbors and explain how their behavior is affecting others. This may not be possible or prudent in every situation, but it may be the more effective approach, in the long run.
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