Most bills in Congress have long and technical names, ones that few people can memorize. The most famous bill of this decade, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010,” became popularly known as simply “Obamacare.” That’s not a risk with H.R. 4009, the Flamethrowers? Really? Act.
Flamethrowers can shoot fire up to 50 feet, and are being sold to consumers in the United States even though even the Department of Defense banned their use in the military in 1978 after the Vietnam War. A spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives told CNN that flamethrowers are not regulated because they are not guns, meaning buyers don’t have to go through FBI background checks.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY16) aims to change the lack of current federal regulations or laws regarding flamethrowers. Only two states even regulate them: Maryland and California. The former bans them outright, while the latter permits their usage only on film and television sets.
“It’s not something I’d thought about before, because you’d just assume — right? — that flamethrowers would be regulated…You wouldn’t imagine that somebody could just send away for it, you know? But you can,” Engel explained his reasoning in introducing the bill to Bloomberg Politics. “When they advertise, they tout the fact that there’s no federal regulation. You can even get rush delivery! No questions asked.”
Conservatives and gun owners generally oppose the bill. “This bill is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist and Representative Engel appears completely unaware of the lawful uses of flamethrowers,” said attorney Joshua Prince with the Firearms Industry Consulting Group. Prince said there has not been a documented case of an individual using a flamethrower during commission of a crime.
Indeed, this is primarily a Democratic-led stunt to highlight what they perceive as Republican opposition to any form of weapons regulation, no matter how outlandish. The bill has five co-sponsors so far, all Democrats. Since its introduction in November, it has remained stuck in the House Judiciary Committee, controlled by Republicans.
The bill’s name was inspired by the Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler recurring sketch “Really?” on Saturday Night Live, in which the comedians would discuss a ridiculous news story while saying “Really?” in increasingly incredulous voices as more details were revealed. Meyers addressed the bill on his current show Late Night, sarcastically opposing the bill.
“I believe it’s every American’s right to own and operate flamethrowers. People will say, ‘But flamethrowers throw flames.’ No, people throw flames,” Meyers joked. “You never know when a Japanese World War II soldier is going to kick in your door.”
“There are more rules regulating lawn darts than these horrific weapons of war.”
“People don’t have a Constitutional right to own napalm.”
“You’re going to BBQ the deer at the same time you kill it.”
You cannot parody these people. They are a parody of themselves.
Kick a Democrat in the knee and he reflexively says “ban it!”
So what does the text of the bill say?
(a)Definition of flamethrower
Section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
(36)The term flamethrower means any nonstationary or transportable device designed or intended to ignite and then emit or propel a burning stream of a combustible or flammable substance a distance of at least 6 feet.
(b)Inclusion in definition of firearm
Section 921(a)(3)(A) of such title is amended by inserting , including a flamethrower before the semicolon.
(c)Ban on possession or transfer
Section 922(o) of such title is amended—
(1)in paragraph (1), by inserting or flamethrower after machinegun; and
(2)in paragraph (2)—
(A)by striking or at the end of subparagraph (A);
(B)by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting ; or; and
(C)by adding at the end the following:
(C)any otherwise lawful transfer or otherwise lawful possession of a flamethrower that was lawfully possessed before the date this subparagraph takes effect.
So what will that look like when we foll the instructions.
(3) The term “firearm” means (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, including a flamethrower; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), it shall be unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun or flamethrower.
(2) This subsection does not apply with respect to—
(A) a transfer to or by, or possession by or under the authority of, the United States or any department or agency thereof or a State, or a department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or
(B) any lawful transfer or lawful possession of a machinegun that was lawfully possessed before the date this subsection takes effect; and any otherwise lawful transfer or otherwise lawful possession of a flamethrower that was lawfully possessed before the date this subparagraph takes effect.
Under this bill, the ability to shoot flame more than 6 feet now makes that device a firearm in the same classification as a machine gun.
Here is the problem with that.
You can buy a Lincoln Electric propane torch from Lowes for a little over $50. They are useful for burning weeds, melting ice, thawing frozen ground, heating asphalt patches or shingles.
If you open up the valves on your 40 lbs propane tank and this thing all the way, you can shoot flame a good 10 feet.
Or you can fill up a Super Soaker with lighter fluid.
Like any law rushed because “somebody has to do something” it’s going to have a lot of problems. Problems like turning hardware and toy stores into illegal arms dealers.