Possible ban on flamethrowers makes more Americans buy them

New and legal $900 flamethrowers sees spike in sales due to likely prohibition

The United States currently has two companies that sells the first commercially available flamethrowers in the country. A flamethrower is a device that can project a stream of burning fuel, most often used as a weapon. However, a mayor has called for greater limitations on their usage, which is in turn, has resulted in increase of the sales of flamethrowers with the likelihood of it being disallowed.

Based in Troy, Michigan, Chris Byars, the CEO of the Ion Productions Team in an email to Ars’ said that “Business is skyrocketing higher than ever due to the discussion on prohibition. I’m a huge supporter of personal freedom and personal responsibility. Own whatever you like, unless you use it in a manner that is harmful to another or other’s property. We’ve received a large amount of support from police, fire, our customers, and interested parties regarding keeping them legal.”

In addition to the $150,000 (£100,000) raised by the company on IndieGoGo, the company has also sold 350 units at $900 (£600) each, including shipping in recent weeks, added Byars.

Known as the XM42, the Ion product has more than 35 seconds of burn time per tank of fuel and can shoot fire over 25 feet (7.5m). It just weighs 10 pounds (4.5kg) with a full tank of fuel.

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, XMatter is an another company that sells a similar device for $1,600 (£1,000) each and weighs 50 pounds (23kg). However, this device has approximately double the range of the XM42. When the company’s co-founder, Quinn Whitehead, was contacted by Ars’, she did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Speaking to Ars’ last week, Jim Fouts, Mayor of Warren, Michigan, which is the third largest city in the state expressed concerns regarding the sale of such devices in his city.

“My concern is that flamethrowers in the wrong hands could cause catastrophic damage either to the person who is using it or more likely to the person who is being targeted,” he said. “This is a pretty dangerous mix because it’s a combination of butane and gasoline which is highly flammable. Anybody who has this at someone else or something happens and it happens close to them is going to be close to be incinerated.”

When Ars’ contacted at the state level, neither State Representative Martin Howrylak nor State Senator Marty Knollenberg immediately responded to the request for comment.

For now, it is totally legal

To one’s surprise, currently there are no federal rules on the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of flamethrowers.

A spokesman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Corey Ray told Ars’ by an e-mail that “These devices are not regulated as they do not qualify as firearms under the National Firearms Act.”

California, at the state level, needs a permit whereas Maryland prohibits them altogether. In 1981, the United States signed the Inhumane Weapons Convention, which prohibits “incendiary weapons” including flamethrowers. This agreement is however only an agreement between nation-states and their militaries, and it did not predict for individual possession.

Earlier this month, a new bill was proposed in Troy, Michigan that would prohibit “storage, use, and possession of flamethrowers in the city.” Violations of the law would carry a non-indictable offense of up to 90 days in jail, a $500 (£300) fine, or both in addition to confiscating of the device.

“Why make/build/sell this? It’s awesome,” Byars added. “It’s revolutionary in its design in contrast to previous flamethrowers throughout the years due to its portability and instant-action on the fly functionality. I wanted one, personally, back in 2007, so I began developing plans to create one. Years went by with slow development, and then a spark hit and I decided this was the year to make it happen. I used the resources I gained as an engineer in the auto industry to learn how to make this a reality.”

However, though Mayor Fouts is not convinced. “If our own military doesn’t use it and it’s been banned by the Geneva Convention then why would someone think this should be sold to the general public?” he added. “I think it’s too risky to gamble with people’s lives. I can’t think of something more horrific than to burn somebody alive, and that’s what this would do.”

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