Flamethrower Company Runs Into Trouble

IonXM42While it’s true that flamethrowers are unregulated, they don’t have a culture surrounding them like firearms do. Which means there’s no preemption law to protect manufacturers, sellers and buyers from the ravages of hysterical local politicians, who are often petty little Napoleons in their own right. Such is the Mayor of the town of Warren Michigan, who is moving to ban flamethrowers. Warren is where Ion Productions makes the XM42. You might think “well, he’ll just have to ban super soakers then too,” but I’m not certain that his proposed legislation doesn’t actually do that:

It describes a flamethrower as “any transportable device that can emit a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid at a distance of more than two feet.” It doesn’t include open-flame cooking devices as defined by the International Fire Code, torches used for industrial purposes or smaller flame-producing devices, like cigar lighters. It also makes exceptions for any officers, employees or members of the Armed Forces, law enforcement, fire department or local, state or federal government workers on duty and acting within the scope of his or her employment.

I’m not sure how this doesn’t cover a super soaker, since it’s certainly can “emit a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid at a distance of more than two feet” with a pretty minimal level of creativity. Let me also say how relieved I am that the Mayor decided to make an exception for Law Enforcement, because I guess we never know when we might have to burn people out of their homes, or hose down a rowdy crowd with some napalm — legitimately, and as a function of law, and for their own good, of course.

I like that a lot young people are embracing libertarian ideas and philosophy, but they are coming against the hard reality that most people aren’t libertarian in philosophy or thought, and aren’t going to agree that people can have dangerous things that they themselves don’t see any legitimate use for. I get taking on the man, but without the cultural underpinnings to support a particular freedom, attracting undue attention to it can result in that freedom ending for everyone. At the end of the day, what does it accomplish?

It’s an dilemma I don’t know how to resolve it. I think people should be allowed to have things that aren’t inherently dangerous to others, which a flamethrower is not. You have to do something stupid and/or evil with it in order for someone to get hurt, and the law would be more just to only punish the stupid and/or evil behavior than to ban the instrument that enabled it. Are there places where even using a flamethrower is stupid? I think that’s debatable. But again, that’s restricting use. If I want to take it out to a quarry and have a good old time setting piles of wood chips on fire, it ought to be my freedom to do so.

But most people don’t think this way. They aren’t willing to live in a society where there’s more risk in order to preserve someone’s “strange” idea of fun. These are people who live relatively conventional lives, and don’t exist much outside of convention. For the most part, they run the world. The reason we’ve been successful with guns is because we’ve abandoned the idea of defending firearms rights on the basis of recreation, which doesn’t appeal to anyone who doesn’t engage in the hobby or who lacks any curiosity about it. Instead, we embraced defending it on the basis of self-defense, which a lot more people can relate to. I worry that at the end of the day, preserving people’s right to have fun with flamethrowers, or their right to make guns at home, won’t prove compelling enough to ordinary people to stand against a tide of public hysteria if it were to come this way.

You know, it occurs to me I don’t have a “flamethrower” category. I guess I’ll have to file this under “civil liberties.”

14 thoughts on “Flamethrower Company Runs Into Trouble”

  1. This is also going to run into the “maker” culture too.

    Not just 3D printing, but all the other home/small scale fabrication tools. Old and new.

    We’re already seeing the collisions with Intellectual Property, Copyright, and ITAR

  2. I would think it would also ban alot of aerosol spray cans. Lysol, hairspray, cleaners in spray cans, many are flammable and can easily be used as a flame thrower that can go further than 2 feet!

    1. Aren’t hair-spray flamethrowers the kind of thing that every High School student has seen, at least once?

  3. The windshield washers on your car CAN emit a stream of flammable liquid more than two feet. So can almost any device that can emit a stream of any liquid.

    It seems to me that this law would fall under the realm of being unconstitutionally vague.

  4. It’s vauge, but it could be interpreted that the device must contain the ignition source, because the device must emit a burning liquid more than two feet. Also, the ban is limiting itself to liquid based throwers, so if it uses gaseous alkanes it’s good to go.

  5. Quoted from article:

    “The council indicated the matter was not ‘an immediate concern’ and put it on the back burner. It did not set another date to discuss the matter.”

    Yup. Some busy bodies called. Well then twice as many pro-liberty folks need to call. This is ridiculous.

  6. On a philosophical level, I think every weapon can, and should be, legal, on the basis of the Second Amendment. So, properly speaking, this would include flame throwers, cannons, grenades, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, even fighter jets with bombs and large-caliber machine guns–basically all the boogie men that anti-gun folk bring out to try to scare us into banning BB-guns. (“See! See! There’s a limit to the Second Amendment, which mean we can ban ANYTHING!!!!!111!!!”) Anyone who has the money to afford these things, who have the intent to do harm, will do harm, with or without the ability to get these specific things. Indeed, grenades are easy enough to make, that banning them really doesn’t do any good. The only reason grenades aren’t used by evil-doers, is because evil-doers don’t use them.

    On a practical level, all these items are a little too indiscriminate to be practical for use in self defense, except in very rare cases. Of course, one of the big rare cases is self defense against government (either ours or a foreign invader’s), but there’s a good chance that such action is going to be a guerrilla war anyway, so such arms will be impractical; alternatively, such weapons are so expensive, it’s likely we’ll have to rely from such arms from the National Guard and the Armed Forces anyway (either from defects, or as allies, depending)…

    While it’s difficult to protect flame throwers legally, the good news is that they are such a niche thing, mostly used for recreation, that government action will generally be rare, and limited to local levels. It as the added bonus that when bans like these *do* rear their ugly heads, they illustrate the absurdity of such bans. (Exempting Government Agents?!? What scenarios do you even have in mind, that wouldn’t apply equally to civilian usage? HECK, what kind of scenarios do you even have in mind AT ALL?!?)

  7. We’ll see, but Michigan has a very strong preemption law and this may not fly.

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