Possession of a flamethrower for recreational use may soon become a felony in New York.
The New York State Senate has passed a billtagged as S-1637 last June 11 classifying possession of flamethrowers, specifically for recreational use, as a Class E felony with four years in prison as its maximum sentence.
The S-1637 defines flamethrower as “a device capable of projecting burning fuel a distance of at least three feet.” This definition aims to include The Boring Co’s “Not-a-Flamethrower” device.
Elon Musk, the founder of The Boring Company, famously circumvented regulations on the shipping of the device by explicitly stating that the device is “not” a flamethrower in its brand name.
Selling flamethrowers were part of the fundraising efforts of The Boring Company; a company focused on solving traffic problems through tunnels. After selling, 50,000 hats with the company’s logo, Musk joked that they would sell flamethrowers back in 2017.
When concerns about the legality of selling such devices were raised, Musk shares that the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) does not ban any flamethrowers with flames shorter than ten feet. The “Not-a-Flamethrower” sports a sleek air gun design that uses a propane tank as storage for its fuel.
For safety, units that were shipped, instead of picked up in The Boring Co.’s offices, did not have the propane gas tank with it.
The Boring Company successfully sold 20,000 units for $500 a piece, bringing it to a total of $10 million. Each unit comes with a complimentary The Boring Company-branded fire extinguishers, which can also be bought separately for $30 per unit. Previously, he raised $1 million for selling hats for $20 a piece.
Concerns about Musk’s strategy of selling flamethrowers as a toy were already raised back in 2018. After Musk’s announcement of selling flamethrowers via Twitter in December 2017, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago shared his outrage via Twitter.
On January 29, 2018, Santiago filed the bill limiting the sale of “Not-a-Flamethrower” in California. Consumers may buy the devices for industrial and agricultural use but not for recreational use.
However, the bill failed to gain momentum because of insufficient support. The Firearms Policy Coalition says that the bill, once created into a law, criminalizes people who had no violent intention or actions done with the device.
In April 2018, the bill was amended to instead — a thorough permit system for the devices to carry a safety label. By May 25, the bill was tagged to a “suspense file” process in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, which is tantamount to being “killed off.”
Now, Senator John E. Brooks and David Carlucci introduced S-1637 with the same idea as Santiago. The lawmaker includes Not-a-Flamethrower as the main example for the bill stating that it’s written to include it.
“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,” stated Brooks.
However, it is good to note that Not-a-Flamethrower units have not been sold for over a year. Flamethrower companies are worried about how the bill will affect them, instead.
According to Quinn Whitehead, owner of Throwflame, 40% of their flamethrower sales are for recreational use. He also thinks that Not-a-Flamethrower cannot even be considered as a flamethrower. “It’s just a roofing torch in an airsoft gun shell,” says Whitehead.
Since the S-1637 bill was passed earlier this June, Whitehead claims that his company has quadrupled his sales on flamethrowers.
Uses for Not-a-Flamethrower
Since the release of Not-a-Flamethrower units last year, customers have been creative in their use of the devices.
Many videos are posted on Youtube, in which users use the device to cook and grill meat. Some used the device to light Tiki torches at a party. Others experimented popping popcorns and roasting marshmallows.
Despite showing happy customers using the devices, some also noted of having minor accidents like Justine Ezarik, vlogger, burning a section of their garden’s grass while doing a cooking video using the device.
Aside from politicians, firefighters have voiced their concerns about the possible misuse of the devices. As a response, Musk tweeted that the Boring Company will donate $10,000 to the California Wildlife Relief Fund.