A couple of innovative entrepreneurs, the kind of manufacturers that made America the industrial power of the world that it is, have created personal flamethrowers that throw honest-to-God liquid fire for dozens of feet.
These flamethrowers are easy to use. They are affordable. And of course, they are fun.
But to a buzz-killing Democrat in Michigan, Rep. Sarah Roberts, the question of whether flamethrowers should be outlawed in her state is a simple question of personal safety — not convenience, fun or even personal liberty.
“There is no good reason for anyone to have or use a flamethrower,” said Roberts. “These are dangerous devices.”
Well, yeah. That’s why they’re called “flamethrowers,” right?
To people like Quinn Whitehead, the boss at Throwflame, a Cleveland company where they’ve created the X15 personal flamethrower, it is a question of personal convenience, liberty and fun.
“Anyone can go out and buy some matches and a gas can if they want to cause harm,” Whitehead told PJM. “But there are already laws on the books against doing harm to others or property. So I don’t think there is any need for more restrictions on our personal freedom.”
Flamethrowers were the weapon of choice for U.S. Marines fighting the Japanese on Iwo Jima and in other battles in World War II, after being first introduced to combat during World War I.
But as Roberts correctly noted when she announced her Michigan legislative attempt to outlaw flamethrowers, the Geneva Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in 1980 banned flamethrowers from most military use.
But that doesn’t mean Santa won’t put one under your Christmas tree.
Flamethrowers might have been judged too extreme for combat but they are legal in 49 states, including Michigan, unless Roberts has her way. Maryland is the only state that bans them outright. California law requires a permit to use a flamethrower. It’s California, right?
Roberts called flamethrowers “a terrible accident, disaster, or personal injury just waiting to happen” when she introduced legislation to ban flamethrowers in September 2015.
“Shooting a stream of flame for 25 feet or more in our neighborhoods, or anywhere in our communities, is just too dangerous,” said Roberts, “and that is why we need to ban these devices.”
Whitehead strenuously disagreed with Roberts. He said farmers, ranchers, forest rangers, firefighters and even a guy who produces special effects for Hollywood have purchased Throwflame’s X15.
“All you have to do is drop a couple of napalm tablets into the fuel,” he explained. Then you just strap on the X15 backpack and shoot a 50-foot flame at whatever you want to burn.
Roberts won’t be reassured by the X15’s ease of operation. But maybe she wouldn’t have a problem with businesses, firefighters and Hollywood buying a flamethrower or two.
But this has to send the butterflies in her stomach on wild figure eights.
Whitehead said the X15, which is a real steal at $1,600 compared to the $10,000 the military might spend on a similar piece of equipment, also appeals to people who appreciate other weapons.
“A lot of the Second Amendment advocates like the X15,” Whitehead said. “We have sold quite a few to gun shops and places that rent machine guns. Sales have been exploding.”
But still, he doesn’t see why there should be any need for a legislative solution to what so far is not a problem.
“We have had a ton of great support from our local community, especially from law enforcement,” Whitehead added. “I really don’t see legislation being a huge issue. There have been zero accidents with flamethrowers so far.”
If the $1,600 price tag and the idea of strapping on a backpack of incendiary fuel seems extreme, take heart. Throwflame isn’t the only company selling personal flamethrowers.
Chris Byars and his team at Ion Products in metro Detroit have created the XM42.
The XM42 is not only a more affordable flamethrower at $999.99, it is compact enough to be a hand-held flame-throwing device. It is available in various colors and finishes. And yes, there’s a model for the left-handed on Santa’s good little boy and girl lists.
“If you’ve ever looked at something and said, ‘I really want to set that on fire over there, but I’m just too far away’ then this is the product for you,” the announcer on the XM42 website proudly proclaims.
Those who procrastinate might be the only kids on the block not to get their own flamethrower.
Demand for the XM42 is outstripping the Ion Production’s ability to produce the handheld flamethrowers. Customers are complaining about slow delivery on the Ion Facebook page, while the company pleads for patience.
But Byars is not slowing down. He is betting that when the Ion team makes the XM42 even better, even more people will want one.
It doesn’t seem safe to doubt this entrepreneur if only because of the success of the XM42 crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
He was hoping to raise $40,000 in one month on Indiegogo. Instead, Byars collected $157,485 from 248 people.
Likewise, there should be no doubts about where Byars stands in the personal safety versus personal liberty debate over flamethrowers.
Take a look at the three T-shirts Ion Productions is selling on its website.
One of the shirts is dubbed “The Freedom T-Shirt.”
It has a picture of the XM42 over the challenging slogan, “Come and Take It.”
(Image via Throwflame)