Getting Legal

This page contains links to all of the materials that were referenced in the "Getting Legal" seminar that was taught in Mason City, Iowa, on August 12th, 2009. Please feel free to use, modify, and/or distribute these materials as you see fit. Note that any of the opinions expressed in the presentation are my own opinions, and not those of the PGI, its officers, or Accelix LLC (the company that is hosting this web page).

If you are involved in pyrotechnics, you need to take the steps required to get legal with the ATF, especially if you transport any of the items you make on a public highway. I have also included several links to DOT letters that clearly state that DOT HAZMAT regulations do not apply to you if you are not in commerce (i.e., not making any money from your fireworks). If you have questions about any of these materials, please feel free to contact me at . Best, - Dave Stoddard
  • Getting Legal PowerPoint Presentation - These are the PowerPoint slides that were used to teach the seminar. The sources for this information include the ATF Orange Book, attorneys, and direct experience with the ATF over many years. If you want to teach a Getting Legal seminar for your own club, these slides are an excellent source of material.

  • Getting Legal Seminar Handout - This is the one page handout that was passed out to people that attended the seminar in Mason City, Iowa.

  • ATF Orange Book - This is the latest version of the ATF Orange Book containing all of the relevant explosives laws and regulations, and specific requirements for the construction of explosives magazines.

  • Magazine Record Worksheet - This is an Excel spreadsheet that I have written and is being used by many people in the US to keep ATF magazine records. Note the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet for each of the relevant record keeping categories. You must write the ATF and ask for a variance to use this spreadsheet (see below). Note that recent changes in the ATF Orange Book expressly exclude the use of computer records that do not maintain an audit log of changes made, however if you are granted a variance to use this from the ATF, the spreadsheet is legal to use.

  • ATF Computer Record Keeping Variance Request - This is an example of a request for a variance to keep your ATF records on a computer using the Magazine Records Worksheet.

  • ATF Contingency Storage Letter Example - This is an example of an ATF contingency storage that would be written by someone who owns a magazine that is granting you contingency storage in their magazine. They send this letter to you, and you sent this letter to the ATF along with your application.

  • ATF Explosives Industry News Letter, June 2009 - This is the latest ATF explosives industry newsletter. This newsletter contains a lot of information regarding fireworks and licensing, so it is worth a read if you are manufacturing fireworks.

  • ATF Explosives Rulings and Procedures - This is s collection of ATF rulings, including ATF ruling 76-18 which describes alternate forms of construction of Type 2 (high explosives) magazines. If you are considering building your own magazine, you will want to read this document.

  • ATF Letter on Hobbyists Manufacturing Issues - This is a letter from the ATF, dated March 22, 2007, that addresses hobbyists manufacturing, transportation, storage, employee possessors, manufacturing class C items, and other related issues.

  • ATF Fireworks Information Sheet - This is a six page informational bulletin provided by the ATF, dated June 9, 2009, that discusses all of the issues related to fireworks and licensing. It covers some of the more esoteric issues of record keeping, including manufacturers marks of identification, variances, clubs, and other important elements.

  • Drake Letter, Part 1 - The Drake letter is an official opinion that was granted by the ATF on May 27, 1983, stating that it is legal to manufacture fireworks without a manufacturers license. This letter of opinion is still valid today, although you must have an ATF permit to transport explosives over any public highway. The letter is in two parts -- this is the first part.

  • Drake Letter, Part 2 - This is the second part of the Drake Letter described above. You need to get both parts, print them out, and carry them with you when ever you attend an event where people are manufacturing.

  • The Mosley Letter - The Mosley letter was written by the ATF on January 22, 1996, and reaffirms the contents of the Drake letter, stating that you do not need an ATF license to manufacture fireworks if you are not in commerce. Note that this addresses only the manufacturing aspect, and not the transportation issue (which does require an ATF license). You should print this letter and keep it with you when you go to club events.

  • Children and Manufacturing Activities - This is a legal opinion letter written by the law firm of Brooke and Mawhorr stating that it is legal to have children participate in manufacturing activities at club events. This is a letter you will want to print out and carry with you to club events.

  • Email From Art Fleener at DOT - This is a copy of an email message that was sent by Art Fleener of the US Department of Transportation stating that hobbyists that are not in commerce are not subject to the US DOT regulations. This is a letter you will want to print and carry with you when you transport materials over public highways.

  • DOT Response to Ray Barwin - This is an official letter from the DOT on October 1, 1999, stating that hobbyists that are not in commerce are not subject to the DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). You will want to print this letter and carry it with you when you transport fireworks over public highways.

  • DOT Response to Dr. John Conkling, Director of the APA - This is another letter that the DOT wrote on June 8, 1993, stating that hobbyists that are not in commerce are not subject to the DOT HMR. You will want to print this letter and carry it with you when you transport fireworks over public highways.

  • Fireworks Attorneys - In the unfortunate event that you find yourself in need of legal assistance for something related to fireworks or explosives, these attorneys are specialists in the field of explosives and fireworks law. You may want to print this list out and carry it in your wallet in the event you encounter a legal dilemma.

  • YouTube: Don't Talk to Cops, Part 1 - This is a video that was made by a law school professor teaching third year law students why it is a bad idea to talk tot he police in the event you are arrested. Part 1 is the why you should not talk from an attorney's point of view. You can either click on the link, or view the video here:

  • YouTube: Don't Talk to Cops, Part 2 - This is a video that was made by a law school professor teaching third year law students why it is a bad idea to talk tot he police in the event you are arrested. This part of the lecture was done by an experienced policeman and discusses why talking to the police can be a major mistake. You can either click on the link, or view the video here:

Remember: Even though you have an ATF license, if it is illegal to manufacture fireworks in your state, then you cannot manufacture fireworks there. Breaking state law with regards to explosives is also a federal crime. Nonetheless, you can still obtain an ATF license to manufacture as long as you have some place legal to travel to in order to manufacture. Stay Green, and Get Legal!