And here we pause to ponder how exactly it was that we came to write on the topic of flamethrowers. Oh yeah, something about Elon Musk and his "peripatetic mind," to borrow the description of Greg Rasa, Autoblog's managing editor.
Recall that Musk took to Instagram a couple days ago to announce his new plan to sell 20,000 Boring Company-branded flamethrowers. At $500 apiece, they would raise $10 million, not including costs, to ... help finance tunnels under Los Angeles? We're not really sure. He also sold thousands of hats with the company's logo last year.
While Musk clearly finds plenty of cheeky humor in his latest exploit ("Guaranteed to liven up any party!" it reads on the order page), not everyone is so amused. State Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, says he heard about the stunt while sitting in traffic and says he wants to introduce legislation to block the sale of the device to the public.
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. pic.twitter.com/82n00um9Bf— Miguel Santiago (@SantiagoAD53) January 29, 2018
"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," Santiago said in a statement. "This deviation feels like a complete slap in the face."
It continues, "I cannot even imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike."
Now, as Rasa pointed out the other day, the Boring Company flamethrower in reality is closer to a big propane torch, the kind you'd use to caramelize a really big creme brûlée, than an actual flamethrower, as in a weapon of war or an agricultural burn implement. Musk even posited on Twitter that "ATF says any flamethrower with a flame shorter than 10 ft is A-ok. Our design is max fun for least danger. I'd be way more scared of a steak knife."
But a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tells NBC News the agency doesn't even regulate flamethrowers. "I'm not sure why he said that," spokeswoman Alexandria A. Corneiro said of Musk. "The domestic production and possession (of flamethrowers) are not regulated by the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act, so we have no regulatory function in that matter."
So where does all this leave us? Who knows. The Boring Company has received permits to construct a two-mile test tunnel in Culver City, Calif., and Musk has been updating his Twitter feed with a running total of flamethrower units pre-ordered. The most recent update: "15k." They're supposed to ship in spring.