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EDITORIAL: Boring Company flamethrowers put dangerous fun into public hands



FlameThrower

Elon Musk's The Boring Company recently sold out of flamethrowers — or, as Musk named them for legal purposes, “Not A Flamethrower”s. There is no real purpose behind selling these flamethrowers, besides the fact that he can. The Boring Company created 20,000 units and sold them for $500 a piece. 

They sold out almost instantly. Many are unhappy with this business move, especially in the wake of deadly wildfires in California and Tennessee. While they could definitely be used as a tool to start more fires, there is nothing inherently harmful about this business model.

The actual flamethrowers are on the safer side of fire-based weapons. The Boring Company labels it as the “World’s Safest Flamethrower”. They only emit flames about 2 feet, while other legal and available flamethrowers emit flaming columns of gasoline up to 25 feet for purposes ranging from controlled agricultural burns to snow removal. 

The Boring Company Not A Flamethrower also comes with a fire extinguisher. So while environmental concerns are entirely valid, Musk is not to be blamed for the availability of flamethrowers in general. He is just making them smaller and slightly more accessible.

Legal concerns about flamethrowers are complicated because they are not classified as firearms, which are officially defined by their ability to expel a projectile using an explosive compound or gas. 

Some states, like California, have laws, such California Health and Safety Codes 12750 to 1276, restricting ownership and purchase of flamethrowers, which officially ban “any non-stationary and transportable device designed or intended to emit or propel a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid a distance of at least 10 feet.” 

The Boring Company escapes this ban because their flamethrowers do not reach the 10-foot distance.

In response to Musk's actions, Rep. Eliot Engels, D-New York, has submitted H.R. 4901, titled the "Flamethrowers? Really? Act," to the House of Representatives in an attempt to give flamethrowers federal restrictions similar to those currently used for machine guns. 

It can be inferred that Musk is not actively setting out to destroy the environment. With his $21.5-billion fortune, many of his donations are targeted toward the environment. He supports a full-scale revolt against the fossil fuel industry. 

While the environmental effects of his SpaceX endeavors are debatable, he is not trying to burn down the nation’s forests. Wildfires can just as easily start naturally or by a careless human with a match or lighter.

Musk’s flamethrower sales may also suggest a bigger marketing strategy as The Boring Company prepares for the future. Much of his goals for the company seem unrealistic and fantastical. For example, his intention with The Boring Company was to create a system of underground tunnels that link major cities. 

Selling flamethrowers not only creates buzz for the company, but proves they can raise capital with weird products. If flamethrowers work, then surely underground tunnels will work too.

Overall, it is hard to determine what Musk’s ultimate goal is outside of someday colonizing Mars. His chaotic neutral presence in the technology and business world has pushed the limits of what we expect from businesses. 

What Musk ultimately teaches us is that until more states start to consider regulating flamethrowers, we all need to be more careful with fire.

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