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Government The Military

California's Efforts To Restrict Elon Musk's Flamethrowers Go Down In Flames (arstechnica.com) 153

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A California state bill that would have more heavily regulated the use of flamethrowers has now effectively fizzled out in a legislative committee. In light of this development, there's nothing to stop Boring Company customers in California from receiving the company's sold-out flamethrowers. On May 26, the day after the bill died in committee, CEO Elon Musk tweeted: "About to ship. @BoringCompany holding flamethrower pickup parties in a week or so, then deliveries begin. Check https://www.boringcompany.com/... for details." After Musk said he would be selling a flamethrower dubbed "Not a Flamethrower" to get around customs, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) authored a bill that would have imposed more restrictions on their acquisition and use.

"I honestly thought it was a joke when I saw the news about this," the assemblyman said in a statement at the time. "This product, in the wake of California's deadliest wildfire year in state history, is incredibly insensitive, dangerous, and most definitely not funny." He added: "There are many times in which technology and inventions benefit society but are not made available to the public. We don't allow people to walk in off the street and purchase military grade tanks or armor-piercing ammunition... I cannot even begin to imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike."
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California's Efforts To Restrict Elon Musk's Flamethrowers Go Down In Flames

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  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Sunday June 03, 2018 @10:17AM (#56719924)

    As far as wacky jokes go, this one is a little over the top.

    • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @10:24AM (#56719946)

      Only if he can explain the difference between military-grade and non-military-grade tanks.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2018 @10:25AM (#56719952)

        A military-grade tank doesn't have to pass emissions tests.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Given the silliness of gun control laws in the People's Republic of Kalifornia, it's pretty clear that legislators there have no idea what the differences are between military and non-military grade hardware in general. Therefore it's no surprise at all this particular legislator can't tell the difference with regard to tanks :P

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, owns as his private property an Austrian army surplus M47 Patton tank. Perhaps the legislator means that Arnold’s tank is non-military-grade because it is surplus or outdated?

      • Red flame and black smoke vs Yello flame and white smoke.

        Also, a pistol grip on the handle vs a spatula grip on the civilian version

      • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@@@earthlink...net> on Sunday June 03, 2018 @12:56PM (#56720600)

        I remember going to a Tractor Supply style store (people know what a Tractor Supply store is in California, don't they) with my brother. While walking through the hardware section we stopped to see that they had electric motors for sale, and out of curiosity we looked at what kind of motors they had. We'd see on the labels things like "outdoor rated" and "heavy duty". What I found memorable was a motor with "farm duty" on its label. I thought WTF does "farm duty" mean and pointed this silly label out to my brother. He just shrugged and said something like if you are a farmer then you buy a "farm duty" motor.

        This is the same with "military grade", it is only a marketing gimmick. If someone wants to make something sound "scary" then its called "military grade". Some time in the 1970s the US military had a bunch of expensive jeeps that had a tendency to roll over. The older jeeps were all worn out and the HMMWV was still on the drawing board. To make up for the lack of "military grade" trucks the government just asked Dodge and GMC for some trucks they could make on the cheap. They slapped together some 1-ton "farm duty" trucks with a beefed up suspension (so it's now rated for 1-1/4 ton), 28-volt electrical system, and some OD green paint and sold them as "military grade" by the millions to US and foreign armies.

        I hear politicians talk about how "military grade" weapons should remain only on the battlefield. Well, then let's do that. That means the police should not carry AR-15 rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, or "sniper" rifles. I took a computer security class from a gentleman that was a Marine scout/sniper prior to his semi-retirement as a security consultant. After class one day we chatted for a bit and I asked what kind of weapon he used as a sniper. He said a Remington Model 700. The Remington Model 700 is a bolt action rifle available at most any sporting goods store for less than a kilobuck, and that includes the scope. If "military grade" weapons belong on the battlefield then we should not be arming our police with "military grade" weapons like a bolt action rifle. The police should not have battlefield weapons like the Beretta M9, a semi-automatic pistol chambered in the 9mm (a caliber developed in 1902).

        If "military grade" means a GMC 3500 with green paint and aftermarket shocks, a cheap bolt action rifle, and a pistol that was "high tech" a century ago, then what is left? Can I get a pump action shotgun? Nope, that's the M870. Even a $300 shotgun is off limits if we can't have "military grade" anything.

        • Just to be safe, California will introduce a solar-powered tank for use by police SWAT teams.

        • by sfcat ( 872532 )

          I hear politicians talk about how "military grade" weapons should remain only on the battlefield. Well, then let's do that. That means the police should not carry AR-15 rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, or "sniper" rifles. I took a computer security class from a gentleman that was a Marine scout/sniper prior to his semi-retirement as a security consultant. After class one day we chatted for a bit and I asked what kind of weapon he used as a sniper. He said a Remington Model 700. The Remington Model 700 is a bolt action rifle available at most any sporting goods store for less than a kilobuck, and that includes the scope. If "military grade" weapons belong on the battlefield then we should not be arming our police with "military grade" weapons like a bolt action rifle. The police should not have battlefield weapons like the Beretta M9, a semi-automatic pistol chambered in the 9mm (a caliber developed in 1902).

          If "military grade" means a GMC 3500 with green paint and aftermarket shocks, a cheap bolt action rifle, and a pistol that was "high tech" a century ago, then what is left? Can I get a pump action shotgun? Nope, that's the M870. Even a $300 shotgun is off limits if we can't have "military grade" anything.

          In fairness, there is something called mil spec. That comes from the DOD and is a set of specifications that products must meet to be sold to the military. Its public and consumer products can meet those specs which should mean "military grade" but how well that's enforced in the market, I couldn't say. I wouldn't be surprised if very few products with the "military grade" label actually pass mil spec. But some do and unless there is a law preventing a specific technology from being sold to the public (

          • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@@@earthlink...net> on Sunday June 03, 2018 @03:56PM (#56721212)

            In fairness, there is something called mil spec.

            Yes, that is a thing. If some elected numbskull says I can't have something because it's "mil-spec" then that person needs to be removed from office. I would also like to see them removed from the gene pool.

            I was issued "mil-spec" earplugs in the Army. Does this mean I can't have the same kind of ear plugs now that I'm not in the Army any more? Construction battalions will be issued mil-spec steel toed boots, safety goggles, gloves, and again earplugs. If someone wanted to sell these same mil-spec items to civilians then should they be barred from doing so?

            Lots of things are mil-spec, like nuts and bolts, socks, eyeglasses, stocking caps, tents, sleeping bags, adhesive tape, bandages. I have a mil-spec ruler on my desk. It's a real deal military surplus 6-inch ruler. I guess I shouldn't have this ruler because it was designed "for use on the battlefield". It is in fact a ruler designed for use on the battlefield, because sometimes it comes in handy to know how large of a hole just got blown into your APC and/or battle-buddy.

            Here's my thought on mil-spec or "military grade", if the military can buy it then anyone else should be able to buy it.

            • There's nothing about mil-spec components that says civilians can't buy them. In practice almost nobody does because mil-spec components tend to be much more expensive and overspecified for most civilian uses.

              There is, however, separate legislation that says you can't buy various military weapons (tanks, missiles).
              And those laws have the occasional exception (you can buy old tanks as long as the guns have been rendered unusable).

              • There's nothing about mil-spec components that says civilians can't buy them.

                Shhhh, don't tell the politicians. .... Which is also the point of the conversation.

        • Good point, but 'military grade' is widely understood (but vague term) that is used to describe weapons that aren't really useful unless you just want to cause carnage and destruction.

          Grenade launchers, fully automatic weapons, crewed weapons, LAW rockets, cannons, Armor-piercing, incendiary, and explosive ammunition, mines and similar devices are probably fair to describe as military grade weaponry. Assault rifles are a bit more fuzzy, but mostly because lax laws have allowed them to proliferate as 'hu
        • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @04:16PM (#56721292)

          To make up for the lack of "military grade" trucks the government just asked Dodge and GMC for some trucks they could make on the cheap.

          Apparently you're not aware of the actual history behind the Dodge Power Wagon.

          and that includes the scope

          Let me correct a possibly larger misconception: any sniper or professional will immediately yank off the factory scope; it adds little value to a serious shooter and it's not at all uncommon to see a $300 firearm sporting a $3000 scope.

          • by Cederic ( 9623 )

            I've never seen one. Seems pretty uncommon to me.

          • Apparently you're not aware of the actual history behind the Dodge Power Wagon.

            Please enlighten me. How much commonality was there between the 1940s era Dodge military vehicles and the 1970s era Dodge CUCV? Looking at the vehicles I can see a lot changed in the 30 years between them. Just because Dodge kept using the Power Wagon name on a series of trucks does not mean the trucks maintained any "military grade" features during its 30 years on the civilian market.

            • Please enlighten me. How much commonality was there between the 1940s era Dodge military vehicles and the 1970s era Dodge CUCV?

              The sheet metal's changed but the CUCV is a direct descendent of the WC series. [wikipedia.org]

              • The sheet metal's changed but the CUCV is a direct descendent of the WC series.

                Whatever. By that standard every vehicle driven today is "military grade" because every vehicle today has some lineage from a vehicle produced for the military in the 1940s.

                Perhaps a 1970s era Dodge truck met the "military grade" standards of a 1940s military but that does not mean it met the standard of "military grade" in the 1970s. If the standard was to meet or exceed the standard for a military of any prior era then I can call a modern baseball bat "military grade" because at some time in the past ea

        • designed for killing men over long periods of time with minimal maintenance. The latter part is usually what's emphasize in marketing. The former part is what worries people.

          Based on what I've read this 'flamethrower' isn't military grade in either sense. Although as other's have pointed out on this thread the problem is that it encourages playing with fire in a state hit hard with drought.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          As always, if you don't know a term because you are not in that industry, try Googling it before denigrating its meaning.

          "FARM DUTY motors are specially designed for applications requiring high starting torque and moderate starting current. Some standard features such as V-ring slinger in both drive and opposite drive ends, reversible shaft rotation and start capacitors provide versatility for indoor and outdoor use."

          The definition above doesn't mean a thing to me and I grew up on a small farm, almost every

          • As always, if you don't know a term because you are not in that industry, try Googling it before denigrating its meaning.

            I grew up on a dairy farm and I had not ever seen the term "farm duty" before or since. I will say that I'm no expert on the workings of a farm, I mostly just milked the cows, baled the hay, and shoveled the shit.

            "FARM DUTY motors are specially designed for applications requiring high starting torque and moderate starting current. Some standard features such as V-ring slinger in both drive and opposite drive ends, reversible shaft rotation and start capacitors provide versatility for indoor and outdoor use."

            In other words its rated to run a feed auger. If that's what they mean then call it "auger rated". There were lots of things on our farm that had motors in them and not all of them required high starting torque. A ventilation fan isn't likely to have a high starting torque. An auger might need

        • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

          Farm duty are for applications requiring high starting torque and moderate starting current. Such as for a conveyor belt. Other motors are set up such that they don't have high torque and would simply burn out or burn out after a short period of time.

    • As far as wacky jokes go, this one is a little over the top.

      Nonsense! Scientifious Studies have proved that Concealed Flamethrower laws greatly reduce violent crime against women.

      Getting up close and kicking an assailant in the balls is tricky. Lighting an assailant up like the Fantastic Four's Human Torch at a safe distance is easier.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I disagree. Elon has labeled this as "not over the top"

    • It's an over priced, modified Airsoft gun that has as much flame throwing capacity as a weed burner. You can buy actual flamethrowers with 60' range but they aren't regulated - it's just because this one got attention.

      • I just wonder why he bothers to sell them. They aren't going to make significant money, are a distraction to any core businesses, and could bring liability claims (justified or not). Seems like most buyers would use the 'for fun' instead of as a tool like a week burner.
    • If it was a proper military grade flamethrower he'd definitely have a point, but it really isn't. I've seen people build similarly effective home-made flamethrowers out of a Super Soaker with a candle lighter in front of the muzzle and the tank filled with windshield wiper fluid instead of water. Are we going to start regulating squirt guns next?
      • > military grade flamethrower he'd definitely have a point, but it really isn't.

        He has a valid point, but poor execution (assuming California is still prone to wild fires.) His point was that these were clearly marketed to upper-middle class office workers, not to those with a practical use for them. Pumping thousands of these gadgets into a fire prone area to people with no reason to own, other than cool! Trying to make them illegal was a poor reaction, to a valid concern. Elon apparently supporting

    • Hank Scorpio did it first! https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
    • Meanwhile in the regular world and not as speculative in terms of danger, my car is still finding plenty of unfilled potholes.

      -- This SIG was last seen orbiting planet Ludicrous

  • Not a flamethrower (Score:5, Informative)

    by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @10:17AM (#56719926)

    After Musk said he would be selling a flamethrower dubbed "Not a Flamethrower" to get around customs

    And also for the simple fact that it's not a flamethrower. It's a blowtorch in the shape of a squirt gun.

    • I've used blow torches to kill weeds, they only go a few inches out. It's why they're called "torches". If the range is minuscule it's fine, but if the thing can shoot flames several feet I'd have problems with it. And not because it's a weapon (a gun would be a better choice if you're trying to kill folks) but because CA's had a drought for ages and the last thing they need is numbnuts running around setting stuff on fire for fun (which appears to be the core market for this thing).

      TL;DR, It's fun
      • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @10:39AM (#56720004)
        It has about the same range as a $20 harbor freight propane torch used to kill weeds, which is a couple feet. If yours only does a few inches you got ripped off.
        • His is the version designed by lawyers.

        • It has about the same range as a $20 harbor freight propane torch used to kill weeds, which is a couple feet. If yours only does a few inches you got ripped off.

          Yep, and if you take a 3/32" drill bit to make the nozzle wider and flip the propane tank upside down so the pressure is blowing out liquid instead of gas, then you get a lot more range and BTUs out of them.

      • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @10:43AM (#56720022)

        but because CA's had a drought for ages and the last thing they need is numbnuts running around setting stuff on fire for fun (which appears to be the core market for this thing).

        I think rich folks in CA are buying flamethrowers for use as a tool in the Great American Pastime of rich folks in CA . . . gentrification!

        Knocking down a multi-family apartment building to build a single family tech-oligarchy dwelling is a bit of a hassle. There will be a lot of debris that needs to be hauled away. If you torch the building with a flamethrower first, the families living there will voluntarily move out, and you will have less debris that needs to be disposed of.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Because it is immoral and should be against the law for richer people to pay poorer people above market for their homes and turn crime ridden cess pools into nice areas to live.

      • There's footage here, including Elon himself having fun. As far as I can tell the reason he did it is because he likes flamethrowers.
      • Dang it, messed up the link. Flamethrower, including Elon himself flaming [youtube.com]
      • but because CA's had a drought for ages and the last thing they need is numbnuts running around setting stuff on fire for fun (which appears to be the core market for this thing).

        It's a propane roofing torch with a little extra range. It's something you hang in your garage and bring out at parties to light the barbecue. Honestly, it's probably less dangerous than Coleman fuel, which many a camper has used in place of lighter fluid. It's definitely less dangerous than alcohol in a super soaker, and it's not like kids haven't done that for decades.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's sort of odd for Santiago to use those examples because you can buy a tank in the US no problem. It's only the main gun and machine guns that are regulated, with the main gun requiring a $200 destructive device tax as well as the same $200 DD tax on each shell. But if you don't want the guns on it you can buy a tank just fine with no background checks.

    The same goes for armor piercing ammunition. The ban in the US on it only applies to handgun calibers. You can still buy black tipped 30-06 from WWII.

  • I honestly thought it was a joke when I saw the news about this," the assemblyman said in a statement at the time. "This product, in the wake of California's deadliest wildfire year in state history, is incredibly insensitive, dangerous, and most definitely not funny.

    Maybe if the commies in Commifornia gave up communism they wouldn't have to deal with Hellfire and mockery.

  • by PinkyGigglebrain ( 730753 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @11:03AM (#56720104)

    I cannot even begin to imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike."

    Just look around. Nothing has changed. Flamethrowers have been legal in CA since before it became a state. And yet to the best of my knowledge there isn't a single instance, ever, of one being used maliciously. (please correct me if I'm wrong)

    This attempt at legislation looks more like a some kind of "OMG! Flamethrowers are scary! We have to outlaw them!" type of knee jerk BS I've come to expect from California lawmakers.

    • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @11:58AM (#56720346)

      >"This attempt at legislation looks more like a some kind of "OMG! Flamethrowers are scary! We have to outlaw them!" type of knee jerk BS I've come to expect from California lawmakers."

      That is because they are "Assault Flamethowers", just like the "Assault Revolver" and "Assault Shotgun"... soon to be followed by the "Assault Car" and "Assault Steakknight" and "Assault Baseball bat". Come on, get with the narrative, already!

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        That is because they are "Assault Flamethowers", just like the "Assault Revolver" and "Assault Shotgun"... soon to be followed by the "Assault Car" and "Assault Steakknight" and "Assault Baseball bat". Come on, get with the narrative, already!

        I assure you you have nothing to fear from the "Assault Steak Knights", as we only assault cows.

        • >"I assure you you have nothing to fear from the "Assault Steak Knights", as we only assault cows."

          LOL, I caught the typo right after pressing Submit. Too late! Made it kinda funny, though.

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      However, flamethrowers were not being sold as toys in CA before this, so they tried to head that off by tweaking an existing law to cover a new product that got around the law by having a reduced range. Musk found a way around the current rules, they tried to fix the rules to maintain the intent. Musk is also pushing a new, more dangerous use for what was previously a carefully applied tool.
  • I've not looked up the specs, but as one who is slightly familiar with real flamethrowers, (and I doubt this is one), then you have to be really careful...if not, you're just as likely to cover yourself with flaming liquid as you are to "have fun"...or whatever the hell you're trying to do with it.

    • I've not looked up the specs, but as one who is slightly familiar with real flamethrowers, (and I doubt this is one), then you have to be really careful...if not, you're just as likely to cover yourself with flaming liquid as you are to "have fun"...or whatever the hell you're trying to do with it.

      This. Real flamethrowers spray burning oil on stuff. Think napalm. This really is "not a flamethrower", it is a glorified tiger torch.

    • Real flamethrowers shoot flaming liquid. This things just burns propane through a nozzle.

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      The problem with darwin taking care of this is the amount of potential colatorial damage.
  • I cannot even begin to imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike.

    That's nothing compared to the problems a flamethrower would cause to marshmallows.

  • by ArylAkamov ( 4036877 ) on Sunday June 03, 2018 @03:20PM (#56721086)

    That isn't a fucking flamethrower, it's an expensive weed burner with a cool shape. You can buy them anywhere. It's compressed gas powered as well, so it's very safe.
    These people don't know their ass from a gloryhole in a truck stop bathroom.

  • We don't allow people to walk in off the street and purchase military grade tanks or armor-piercing ammunition...

    Tanks [slashdot.org] are legal to own. Just a bit expensive. And if the main gun is operative a tax stamp is needed for the destructive device. Armor piercing, even anti tank rounds [slashdot.org] are available as well...

    Politicians seldom actually research. And regards armor piercing rounds? Tungsten balls put into hollowpoint ammo suffice for light armor, and large game hunting rounds that aren’t armor piercing, wil

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