The hidden side of politics

Elon Musk’s flamethrower incenses New York lawmakers. State Senate passes bill banning the weapon

Reported by CNBC: 

An attendee stands for a photograph while operating a Boring Co. flamethrower during the company’s Not-a-Flamethrower Party outside of the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) headquarters in Hawthorne, California, U.S., on Saturday, June 9, 2018.

Dania Maxwell | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The New York State Senate passed a bill earlier this month that would make the possession of a flamethrower for recreational activities a felony, with an eye toward outlawing the one made by Elon Musk’s Boring Co.

Musk’s company sold all 20,000 units of its $500 flamethrowers in less than a week last year, drawing the ire of lawmakers in New York and elsewhere.

“Elon Musk’s Boring Company released a new flamethrower which sold out of all 20,000 within days, without any concern to the training of the purchasers or their reasons for buying. Allowing the general public to access this type of machine is extremely problematic,” New York lawmakers said in justifying the legislation. “These dangerous devices should not be sold to civilians, and use needs to be restricted to trained professionals.”

CEO Musk, who also runs electric car company Tesla, said the Boring Company renamed it “not-a-flamethrower” to avoid regulatory rules that prohibit the transport of anything called a flamethrower.

The Boring Company did not respond to requests for comment. The bill would make possessing a flamethrower a Class E felony, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Sponsored by Democratic state Sens. John Brooks and David Carlucci, the bill passed the Senate 48-13 on June 11. It defines a flamethrower as “a device capable of projecting burning fuel a distance of at least three feet.” The bill hasn’t come up for a vote in the Assembly yet.

It was first introduced last year after the Nassau County Fire Commission reached out to Brooks, said Michael Reid, Brooks’ chief of staff. Reid said the “not a flamethrower” was also concerning to emergency medical personnel.

“They were concerned that people were essentially having something that looks like a toy, is being billed as something fun to use, and there was all different stuff coming up on social media showing people really using the device as intended, which is to have fun,” Reid said. “Unfortunately, firing out a burst of flame for a number of feet can have some really horrific, unintended consequences.”

In the terms and conditions customers had to agree to before purchasing, Boring included a poem that read:

Quinn Whitehead, owner of Throwflame in Cleveland, Ohio, said his company has seen sales to New York “basically quadruple” since people started hearing about the bill. He also said he doesn’t think the bill, as written, would actually apply to the Boring flamethrower.

“It’s just funny to me that the justification of this bill has revolved around Elon Musk’s flamethrower, which isn’t actually a real flamethrower,” Whitehead said. “It’s just a roofing torch in an airsoft gun shell.”

Reid, however, said the bill was specifically designed to include the Boring flamethrower.

Whitehead said roughly 40% of the flamethrowers his company sells are purely for entertainment use, while others are bought by people using them as a tool, such as for agriculture. Throwflame advertises products that can shoot burning fuel over 100 feet.

Brooks said, “Considering flamethrowers to be toys for recreational use is a bit of a head-scratcher. This bill will protect kids, families, and neighbors from irresponsible and dangerous ‘play.’ Weapons of war do not belong in our backyards.”

The bill would not apply to flamethrowers with at least five major components built before 1966, flamethrowers used for agriculture or construction, or those purchased and possessed before the bill would take effect. Reid said the historical carve-out was for people who wanted to display or use flamethrowers in war reenactments.

The Boring Company’s main focus is building new underground transportation systems in cities. In addition to flamethrowers and fire extinguishers, the company’s website says Boring sold 50,000 hats featuring the corporate logo.