Flamethrowers have gained an infamous reputation of inciting fear and tormenting enemies. But did you know that the laws in the United States are not strict with the ownership of these weapons?
In the U.S., flamethrowers are perfectly legal to own. They are considered tools instead of firearms. Out of all the states, only California and Maryland have restrictions on sales and ownership of a flamethrower.
History of the Flamethrower
The flamethrower made its debut on the modern battlefield in the second world war. It is consistent with one or more gas tanks, a cylinder of compressed gas to act as a propelling force, a trigger-nozzle equipped with an igniting agent, and flexible hoses to connect everything together.
The Germans were the first to invent the weapon. In the early 1900s, Richard Fiedler created two prototypes for the German army. Both used gas pressure to propel burning oil. One was a portable type that could send flaming oil to a maximum of 18 meters, while the other was bigger and could reach as far as 36 meters.
By the second world war, all army forces employed the flamethrower, be it the backpack-type or the tank-mounted ones. The British and American troops improved their flamethrowers, using Napalm as fuel. Napalm is a thickened type of gasoline that can reach farther distances, burn hotter than regular gasoline, and stick-like jelly to enemy forces. (Source: Britannica)
The International Humanitarian Law norms specifically regulate incendiary weapons found in the 1980 Protocol III restricts the use of any particular weapon or munitions primarily designed to set fire to objects or cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat, or combination thereof.
The protocol was put in place due to the destructive capability of the weapon, inciting ethical issues regarding the cruelty it affects. (Source: National Interest)
Today, flamethrowers are used by fire departments. Firefighters use flamethrowers to backburn. Backburning is the method of controlling wildfire by creating a line of fire. Firefighters get ahead of the wildfire and lay a fire line and somehow control its direction.
Farmers who can afford flamethrowers also use them for land management. Farmers use flamethrowers to clear land for crops.
The government also uses flamethrowers from time to time, such as burning grass medians in highways and preventing accidental wildfires caused by discarded cigarettes. (Source: CNN)
Commercially Available Flamethrowers
There are a few companies that sell flamethrowers. The Ion Productions team was founded in 2004 and was initially a software development team. It later transitioned to producing flamethrowers. In 2015, it started selling the XM42, a flamethrower that can reach 25 feet.
In 2017, Elon Musk founded the Boring Company. The company was created with Musk’s vision to eliminate traffic by building underground tunnels where commuters can travel to avoid the traffic.
Upon realizing the amount of money and time it would take to accomplish this, Musk undertook some crowdsourcing like selling caps and creating a flamethrower toy that costs $500. The company sold 20,000 units in just five days and generated a $10 million revenue, along with the $1 million off of the $20 caps. (Source: IQS)
Laws on Flamethrowers
Private ownership of flamethrowers is perfectly legal in most states, except for California and Maryland. In California, owning a flamethrower is permitted if it cannot reach farther than 10 feet. (Source: Mashable)
If your flamethrower exceeds 10 feet, you must secure a permit, as published in the California Health and Safety Protocol. Otherwise, you may face up to a year of jail time or a fine of $10,000. However, in Maryland, flamethrowers are banned.
Most states consider a flamethrower as a firework that is subject to more stringent laws in effect. (Source: Life Hacker)