As It Happens

Elon Musk's flame-throwers are a 'danger waiting to happen,' says California lawmaker

Elon Musk’s company sold out $10 million US worth of flame-throwers in just four days — and some people are not too happy about it.
Elon Musk says all 20,000 of The Boring Company flame-throwers have sold out. (The Boring Company)

Story transcript

Elon Musk is notorious for his eccentric ideas. But the billionaire entrepreneur has come up with a new invention that isn't sitting right with everyone — recreational flame-throwers.

Musk's Boring Company expanded its business recently by selling hats bearing the name of the company. They then decided to up their game — proving to be not so boring after all — with their $500 US flame-throwers, sold online internationally.

In just four days, they managed to sell $10 million worth of them — to the point where they completely sold out.

California lawmaker Miguel Santiago said this is dangerous and irresponsible, so he's planning to introduce legislation to ban or regulate the usage of these flame-throwers.

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

What did you think at first when you heard Elon Musk's company was going to be selling flame-throwers?

Well, to be quite frank with you, when I first heard the news, I thought it was a joke. ... I got a good laugh at it and then actually realized that this was real.

So we had our staff check out what it would take for somebody to buy a flame-thrower, and we had a staff member one click away from owning a flame-thrower. And that's when we discovered, holy moly, this is dangerous — particularly here in the state of California where we've just been through some of the most horrific, catastrophic fires in our history. 

We know that flame-throwers or torches or like equipment currently exists. What is different about this is that it looks like a toy gun, it feels like a toy gun and it's made to have fun.

And yet, he says they're sold out. So what do you do now?

Well, they haven't been shipped. They don't get shipped until the spring, from my understanding. I've not spoken to him so I don't know if they've been built already or if they're in design or if they're currently being fabricated.

So what can you do to stop the shipments?

Well, we can [at least] put some permits ... on it. And we can actually, through legislation, provided that we can get it to the governor's desk, ensure ... that legislation is retroactive. This has been done before.

And what would the legislation entail? What would you set out in that?

Ban the ability for somebody, or at least permit the process, for folks to have a flame-thrower when we think there might be potential danger to an individual or to any infrastructure around us.

Now Musk says he's going to ship them with complimentary Boring fire extinguishers. Does that resolve the problem at all for you?

Absolutely not. I think it's smart to send them out with a fire extinguisher, but I think it's an acknowledgement that there will be fire, potentially, if you have these, and it's exactly what the concern is for us.

I think people, for the most part, thought it was a joke and were alarmed that somebody would be selling something as a fun toy when it could potentially mean great bodily harm or cause the next wildfire.

One thing that's come out of this is the the fact that flame-throwers aren't just unregulated to the large degree in California, but it seems in almost every state. Is that surprising to you?

I think it was surprising to everybody to find out. I mean, when we called over to the firefighters, they were alarmed and surprised as well that anybody could go get a flame-thrower or a torch.

Now, certainly, like I said earlier, there are legitimate uses. But I just can't fathom that somebody would want a flame-thrower for the sake of having fun inside of a house — that's just danger waiting to happen. 

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