Watch out for flamethrower bearing BBQers this summer. Elon Musk, the attention-grabbing entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, has fired up Twitter and legions of his loyal followers with a brand-spanking new toy — a commercially available flamethrower.
The Future Is Flamethrower?
Musk’s flamethrower has already become a hit. Pre-sales have quickly sold out online. There’s no word about future flamethrowers hitting the market, so this might be a gag gift or the start of a new trend. But it raises interesting legal questions which, yes, we’re here to blog about.
It’s Easier to Buy a Flamethrower Than a Gun
You might be surprised to learn that only two states regulate flamethrowers. California requires flamethrower users and buyers to have a permit, while Maryland bans them entirely. But you shouldn’t be too surprised. There’s never been a wave of flamethrower-related violence to spur states and Congress to enact flamethrower laws. Hence their absence.
All flamethrowers will ship with a complimentary boring fire extinguisher
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 1, 2018
That might change soon, however. California is already rumbling about a ban on flamethrower sales, and we’d expect other states to follow if necessary.
Use Your Flamethrower Wisely
What’s always prohibited are crimes — no matter what’s used to commit them. Most criminal laws criminalize actions – murder, kidnapping, assault, etc. — and “add on” counts or prison time for using prohibited items.
ELON I BOUGHT 6 FLAMETHROWERS NOW THE TSA IS TELLING ME I’M ON SOME SORT OF WATCHLIST?!? WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE HELP
— Riccardo “fluffyblockchain” Spagni (@fluffypony) February 1, 2018
Those definitions are flexible: a car can be deadly weapon, as can be a surgeon’s hands. A flamethrower might pose an interesting case for an appellate court someday, but it’s not something we’d expect to be a winning argument.