Back in 2018, Elon Musk’s The Boring Company released a bunch of limited edition flame-throwing devices as a bizarre promotional gimmick for the tunnel-digging startup. Officially dubbed “Not A Flamethrower” on the company’s own website, the devices could not, as CNN pointed out at the time, “spew flames long distances by igniting flammable liquids,” but were instead designed to act more like “large propane blowtorches.”
Apparently, none of that matters much in the eyes of the law — particularly when those same eyes are looking at what appears to be a grown man attempting to board a “party bus” in Italy holding what looks exactly like a flamethrower.
In an excellent writeup over at TechCrunch, writer Mark Harris helpfully dives into the legal snafus faced by dozens of “Not A Flamethrower” owners after law enforcement officers got a load of their giant fire-shooting guns. Among the stories featured are those of the aforementioned American man (who was subsequently jailed in Italy for nearly a week) and a London man whose home was raided by five police officers in tactical gear.
The military-grade aesthetic of the device was eventually enough to prompt Democratic lawmakers in the New York State Senate to sponsor a bill that would criminalise the ownership and use of the would-be flamethrower.
“Elon Musk’s Boring Company released a new flamethrower… without any concern to the training of the purchasers or their reasons for buying,” the bill, S1637, reads. “This bill establishes that owning and using a flamethrower is a criminal act, unless it is used for agricultural, construction or historical collection purposes. These dangerous devices should not be sold to civilians, and use needs to be restricted to trained professionals.”
Although many of the civilians identified by TechCrunch had their Not a Flamethrowers confiscated by law enforcement out of a concern for public safety, John Richardson — the London man who had his home raided by a rapid response team dedicated to tackling gun crime — eventually regained possession of his weapon. He told TechCrunch that he intends to keep a low-profile with the device for now — at least until he knows he can make a profit off of it.
“I’m happy to sit on it for however long,” he said. “And if there is a zombie apocalypse, at least I’ve got one.”
Head over to TechCrunch for more details that are, unsurprisingly, even stupider and funnier.