Elon Musk's plan to sell 20,000 people a $500 flamethrower branded with the name of his Los Angeles-based tunnel-digging venture, The Boring Company, has hit a roadblock. In a statement issued today and published on Twitter by Los Angeles Times report Liam Dillon, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) said he intends to introduce legislation that would prevent Musk's company from selling the flamethrower to the public, at least in the state of California.
The legality of the weapon in the other 49 states of the US remains an open question. Yet Musk has confirmed on Twitter that the gun does not meet the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' definition of an illegal flamethrower, which means The Boring Company's model does not emit a flame larger than 10 feet in range. So California may have to establish specific guidelines independent from federal regulation. Musk has suggested that the flamethrower would be used in some official capacity for The Boring Company, but it's not clear at the moment what that is.
"The state of California and the county and city of Los Angeles have entrusted Mr. Musk to help alleviate a real public policy problem here by executing a tunnel under the city to help alleviate traffic," writes Santiago, commenting on the city of Los Angeles' ongoing relationship with The Boring Company. The company has received permits to build a two-mile test tunnel in the Culver City suburb, where Musk's private spaceflight company SpaceX is headquartered. "This deviation feels like a slap in the face." Santiago at first thought news of The Boring Company's flamethrower sale was a joke. The bulk of his statement, which includes a Spider-Man reference, lays out his argument against handing the public a fire-breathing firearm:
Like most Americans, I am in awe in of Mr. Musk's genius — the brains behind Tesla, PayPal, SolarCity, and Space X. But as President Truman and Stan Lee have taught us all, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' 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 image the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike.
News of Musk's flamethrower sale came last week, seemingly making good on what appeared to be a joke Musk tweeted out back in December about moving on from The Boring Company's hat sale to a flamethrower one. (We know now Musk was, in fact, not joking.) The announcement came accompanied by a still image of the weapon and then an Instagram video of Boring Company representatives using working models, alongside a torrent of other Musk tweets and promotional material put out on social media. One follow-up video included Musk running at the camera deviously wielding the flamethrower himself.
Over the weekend, Musk opened preorders for the device at $500 apiece, with shipping slated for "spring." The Boring Company has so far sold more than $5 million worth, with Musk confirming two hours ago at time of publication that the 10,000-unit milestone had been passed. It's still not entirely clear whether the flamethrower will ever make its way to the public, legality aside. Musk continues to tweet tongue-in-cheek comments on Twitter, like informing his followers that the weapon will work well in a zombie apocalypse. Some have speculated that it's an elaborate April Fool's joke two months ahead of schedule.
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Musk is also known for messing with reporters and the public on Twitter. He said last month that SpaceX intends to send Musk's Tesla Roadster to space, told The Verge that the plan was "totally made up," but then actually followed through with preliminary planning to send the vehicle in the payload of the maiden voyage of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket.
The Verge has preordered one flamethrower for its San Francisco office, so we'll let you know when and if we receive more information about shipping. In the meantime, all we can do now is wait and see whether the flamethrowers, like a certain flagship electric vehicle from a certain California-owned company, actually ships on time — or at all.