Last week, Elon Musk made headlines by selling 20,000 Boring Company branded “flame throwers” in a matter of days. The novelty item technically isn’t a flame thrower at all, and could be more accurately described as a powerful torch, but that didn’t stop the nomenclature from getting a rise out of U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney of New York. Days after Musk’s fire sale ended, the two lawmakers proposed a bill that would make the possession of flame throwers illegal for most U.S. citizens.
The surprise to many, of course, is that flame throwers weren’t already illegal. Prior to Musk’s publicity stunt, most folks led their lives free from concerns about the legality of projecting flames at their neighbors. It turns out, however, that flame throwers are pretty much legal to purchase and own anywhere in the United States other than California (which requires a specific license) and Maryland (which bars the use of a flame thrower in state fire codes). If you live in any of the other 48 states (or Canada) however, you’re free to get your flame on responsibly.
If adopted, H.R.4901, which was actually entitled the “Flame throwers? Really? Act,” would rule that “any non-stationary or transportable device designed or intended to ignite and then emit or propel a burning stream of a combustible or flammable substance a distance of at least 6 feet” fall under the same legal restrictions that current limits the purchase and ownership of fully automatic weapons. The bill does, however, allot for the use of flame throwers for law enforcement – just in case your local police department finds itself fighting in World War II era trenches.
It’s worth noting that, per that legal definition, Musk’s “flame throwers” would remain legal.
The language used in the title, complete with multiple question marks, seems to suggest that the two New York Democrats that proposed this bill were, like most Americans, previously unaware of the legality regarding flame throwers in their states. Proponents of the bill have called it a “common sense” law, while others have criticized the H.R.4901 as yet another ineffective weapons ban with no quantifiable effect on the life or safety of American citizens.
A search of the FBI’s violent crime database, as well as other law enforcement databases from around the country, produced no cases that involved a flame thrower being used to commit a violent, or any other, type of crime.
Engel and Maloney are not the only lawmakers to seek a legislative solution to their issue with Musk’s latest promotional sale, however. Miguel Santiago, a California assemblyman out of Las Angeles, has announced that he also intends to propose legislation banning flame throwers, including Musk’s torch, from being sold within his state.
I honestly thought it was a joke when the article was read to me—while I was sitting in Los Angeles traffic,” Santiago said in a statement to the LA Times. “The state of California and county and city of Los Angeles have entrusted Mr. Musk to help alleviate a real public policy problem here by executing a tunnel under the city to help alleviate traffic. This deviation feels like a complete slap in the face….I cannot even begin to imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike.”
See Elon Musk’s “Boring Company” flame thrower in action below:
Image courtesy of The Boring Company