Screenshot: Boring Company
It turns out California lawmakers do not in fact care enough about Elon Musk and the Boring Company's plan to sell $US10 millions' worth of really big crème brûlée torches tooled up to look like flamethrowers to pass a law preventing it, or at least they don't care enough to anger the state's gun lobby. The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that state Assemblyman Miguel Santiago's bill to more closely regulate flamethrowers is being held in committee, which has effectively killed the legislation.
"If this is real, I'm outraged and you should be too," Santiago tweeted back when he was promising to introduce the bill. "If this is a joke, then it's a terribly insensitive one given that we're coming off of the worst wildfire season in history. Either way: NOT FUNNY. NOT GONNA HAPPEN."
It is, however, happening.
According to the Chronicle's account, Santiago's bill would have made it more difficult for consumers to buy flamethrowers for recreational use, leaving any possible industrial or agricultural uses untouched. But it came under opposition from, uh, the gun lobby — and was subsequently buried in committee to avoid an embarrassing vote:
Although the bill was supported by police and firefighters, Santiago immediately faced opposition from gun-rights advocates.
The Firearms Policy Coalition criticised lawmakers for trying to regulate the devices and wrote that AB1949 criminalized nonviolent behaviour. "This bill," the group wrote, "should be torched."
Santiago narrowed the scope of his bill from requiring a rigorous permitting system for flamethrowers to simply requiring them to carry a safety label. But even that weakened form of the bill stalled May 25, when it was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, a victim of the notorious "suspense file" process in which legislative leaders often kill bills that could pose an embarrassing vote for the ruling party.
As Ars Technica notes, while California law currently requires owners of flamethrowers that can shoot further than 3.05m to obtain a $US425 ($561) permit, there are few other regulations. There are no federal laws preventing ownership of such devices, and California's permitting process and a total ban in Maryland are effectively the only state-level restrictions on ownership.
Videos show the Boring Company's torches aren't ranged anywhere close to 3.05m, and can achieve a spray more like three to four feet, max. After Musk tweeted that the ATF was "A-OK" with devices of that specification, an ATF spokesperson was even forced to clarify it doesn't regulate flamethrowers at all and they were not even sure which agency does.
As the L.A. Times noted, the laissez-faire attitude towards regulation across the country means there are way scarier devices for sale on the open market that could be more accurately termed flamethrowers:
Flamethrower manufacturers say Musk's foray into flamethrowers has led to more interest in their own products.
[Throwflame Chief Executive Quinn Whitehead] said Throwflame customers have placed "quite a few" orders since Musk first began tweeting about his flamethrower promotion. Throwflame's signature product is the X15 Flamethrower, which starts around $US1,600 and has a range of about 15.24m.
Whitehead said the company, founded in 2015, has sold several thousand X15 flamethrowers in the last year or so, though it's still a niche market.
With the failure of the bill, Musk is cleared to ship the torches to recipients in California with no issues. However, if he was at all serious about his jokey plan to get them through international customs with labels saying "Not A Flamethrower," some shipping delays for other buyers may be inevitable.