A history of why all fireworks were once made illegal in New Jersey
Up until 2017, all fireworks were illegal to have and purchase in New Jersey. Before that time, the Garden State was one of only three states with a blanket ban on all consumer fireworks.
After 2017, state legislators made it legal to purchase smaller fireworks such as sparklers and snakes. But the larger fireworks are still illegal to own.
But many New Jersey residents may have noticed that over the past few weeks it sounds as if there are nightly fireworks displays happening in their towns. Police departments all over the state have received complaints about large fireworks or explosions occurring in their towns late at night when people are trying to sleep. It has prompted some towns like Hoboken and Paterson to announce a crackdown on anyone setting off fireworks without the proper permits.
The history of making fireworks illegal in New Jersey dates back to the 1930s.
Back in the early 20th century, many people would give their children fireworks to play with on days like the Fourth of July. They were seen as children’s toys, until many of those children ended up in the hospital.
July 5 or 6 editions of newspapers in the years preceding the 1937 ban shows articles about children who had blown their fingers off or burned their faces.
On July 4, 1936, the Asbury Park Press reported that area hospitals saw dozens of fireworks injuries. Injuries like an 11-year-old girl who blew off her lip or an 8-year-old who lost two fingers. A 9-year-old in Perth Amboy was killed – one of two fireworks fatalities that year.
A total of 936 people in New Jersey were injured by fireworks in 1936, the most of any state. The toll caused a widespread call from groups like the American Legion, Benevolent Order of Elks, and the Bergen County Catholic War Veterans to ban fireworks.
Lawmakers listened and the state Senate and Assembly unanimously passed legislation to ban fireworks. Then-Republican Gov. Harold G. Hoffman signed the bill into law.
The law was then laxed under Gov. Phil Murphy to allow smaller fireworks. But with other states like Pennsylvania recently loosening their laws and professional-grade fireworks flooding the black market in New Jersey, there seems to be some resurgence of larger fireworks in the Garden State.