By Giorgina McKay | @ggmckay11
Tesla, Inc. founder Elon Musk debuted his “Not-a-Flamethrower” line last week in collaboration with his “The Boring Company”.
The handheld flamethrower pre-sold 20,000 models, in addition to the 1,000 distributed at the product’s launch event in Los Angeles.
The idea for the controversial product was initially presented as a joke to his 7.8 million followers on Instagram.
However, it soon became a reality after an abundance of positive reviews and demands for the product.
The $500 knock-off flamethrowers can shoot flames of up to 2,000 degrees to a distance of 8 feet.
This has unsurprisingly caused major controversy among several parties.
US Democrat Miguel Santiago is one of the major figures leading the opposition.
He tweeted in January, “If this is real, I’m outraged and you should be too. If this is a joke, then it’s a terribly insensitive one given that we’re coming off of the worst wildfire season in history. Either way: NOT FUNNY. NOT GONNA HAPPEN.”
Mr Santiago is currently seeking to block the sale of the flamethrowers in California.
Firefighters who have been battling the wildfires in Southern California have also supported Mr Santiago’s efforts, labelling the devices as irresponsible.
“We’ve had three major fires in Orange County just in the last couple of weeks,” Orange County Fire Captain Tony Bommarito said.
“We just didn’t get the rain again this year, it’s already brown, the moisture’s very low, so anytime you have somebody, or kids even, playing with these flamethrowers, it’s going to be a recipe for disaster.”
But despite the controversy, the company has defended that the product is safe.
“[The flamethrower] is safer than what you can buy right now off-the-shelf on Amazon to destroy weeds,” a Boring Company spokesperson told CNET.
“Much like a rollercoaster, this is designed to be thrilling without danger.”
Mr Musk also responded to the backlash, warning consumers that “obviously, a flamethrower is a super terrible idea. Definitely don’t buy one… unless you like fun.”
According to The Guardian, he said the flamethrower did not shoot flames further than 10 feet, so it was “A-OK” with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
However, there are already reports of consumers injuring themselves or others with the flammable products.
YouTuber Justine Ezarik lit her artificial lawn on fire last Sunday after attempting to cook some steak and popcorn in her backyard.
Ms Ezarik’s stunt is just one of the documented incidents since the product’s release.
So are these ‘Not-a-Flamethrower’ flamethrowers really safe in the hands of the global population, let alone in America’s?
Gun violence has been a pertinent issue in America for the last few decades.
Statistics from the Gun Violence Archive have reported 125 mass shootings in America this year alone.
This does not include the additional 6,467 deaths and 12,123 injuries from other gun-related incidents this year.
It is an alarming number, given we have only just reached the mid-year mark.
If this is how Americans treat guns—a weapon that (legally) involves strong background checks to acquire—then how would they treat an easily-attainable machine that spits fire?
Any handheld device that has the capability that The Boring Company’s ‘Not-A-Flamethrowers’ do, should not be in the hands of anyone, and especially not in the hands of a society that thinks eating Tide laundry pods is okay, but enforcing assault rifle restrictions is not.
This past week has shown, if common sense and logic were not enough, that Elon Musk’s ‘Not-a-Flamethrower’ is a stupid, dangerous toy built for people with hyperactive imaginations.
It is irresponsible on Mr Musk’s behalf to even create these harmful devices in the first place, but it is even more irresponsible for him to be treating the safety and concerns surrounding them as a joke.
We already have an exceeding amount of murder, terrorism and arson in the world, and we do not need to add these flamethrowers to the mix.