As of Wednesday, it is now legal to buy, sell and use aerial fireworks in Georgia.
While low-grade fireworks have long been legal in Georgia, aerial fireworks such as missile-type rockets and bottle rockets, aerial spinners, roman candles and firecrackers have been illegal.
But don’t look for any of the higher-grade fireworks in the familiar tents that pop up in box-store parking lots this time of year. They can only sell the lower-grade items that have long been legal.
The newly legal fireworks can only be sold from permanent structures and by licensed fireworks dealers. And currently, there is only one of those in Columbus, The TNT Store tucked into the corner of Britt David Shopping Center on Airport Thruway.
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Danyail Sawyer and her family operate the retail outlet of TNT Fireworks, a national fireworks company.
“Before, we could not sell anything that left the ground and they could not spark up over about seven feet,” Sawyer said. “Now, anything Alabama can sell, we can sell. That’s so exciting.”
You can still drive across the river and load up in one of the many stores along the roadsides of east Alabama, where long-established businesses have been selling them for years.
Sawyer said Columbus’ proximity to well established fireworks retailers in east Alabama may present a challenge to her business at first, but over time people will want to buy at home.
“I think people will want to come here and buy a big one,” she said, referring to the newly legal aerial fireworks. “I think they will want to keep the taxes here in Georgia.”
City Attorney Clifton Fay said the city had a local ordinance banning the sale and use of fireworks, but that is trumped by state law.
“Anything that we had on the books ha sbeen superceded by the state law,” Fay said.
Fay said there are certain restrictions in the state law, such as fireworks may only be purchased by someone 18 or older and can legally be set off between 10 a.m. and midnight every day of the year. Those times are extended to 2 a.m. on December 31, January 1 and July 3 and 4.
Further, they cannot be used within a school safety zone, at a school function or on a bus or other transportation furnished by a school. They cannot be exploded within 100 yards of a nuclear power facility or gas station, or a facility that refines, processes or blends gasoline.
Sawyer said there are also considerable restrictions on retailers selling the pyrotechnics. At their store, they can only have 1,000 pounds of the explosives in the store at any time and there are regulations about the number of fire sprinklers and other safety requirements.
“And, no, you can’t smoke in the building,” she said.
The American Pytrotechnics Association offers safety tips for handling and using fireworks::
Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
Always read and follow the directions on the label.
Always have an adult present when handling fireworks.
Never give fireworks to young children, even sparklers.
Use fireworks outdoors in a safe, non-wooden area.
Have a working garden hose or bucket of water handy.
Keep everyone a safe distance away from fireworks.
Light only one firework at a time.
Never re-ignite a firework that doesn’t light the first time or one that has finished its display.
Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
Don’t throw fireworks at another person.
Keep pets indoors and away from fireworks.
Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
Keep spectators at a safe distance.
Always wear safety glasses when igniting fireworks.