Byars is the CEO of Troy, Michigan's Ion Productions Team, one of two companies in the nation now selling commercially available flamethowers. The second company? Throwflame, a start-up based right here in Cleveland.
While each company offers a distinct product — Throwflame's 50 pound backpack package shoots fire from a hose and retails at $1,600 and Ion's 10 pound handheld device is powered by an attached fuel can and sells for $900 — both companies started operating within the last year and have seen a surge in sales in recent months as some lawmakers criticize the products and call for restrictions on their use. "Business is skyrocketing higher than ever due to the discussion on prohibition," Byars told ARS.
"Shockingly," ARS Technica's Cyrus Farivar writes, "there are no current federal regulations on the possession, manufacture, sale, or use of flamethrowers."
"These devices are not regulated as they do not qualify as firearms under the National Firearms Act," Corey Ray, a spokesman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, told Ars by e-mail.
At the state level, California requires a permit while Maryland outright bans them—Ars is not aware of any other state-level regulation. The Inhumane Weapons Convention, which the United States signed in 1981, forbids "incendiary weapons," including flamethrowers. However, this document is only an agreement between nation-states and their militaries, and it did not foresee individual possession.
A new bill in Troy, Michigan, proposed earlier this month would forbid "storage, use, and possession of flamethrowers in the city." Violations of the law would constitute a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both in addition to seizure of the device.
While a bill has been proposed in Troy, we're not aware of anything similar here in Cleveland.
What's more, CNN Money reports that the devices are being marketed more as toys than as dangerous weapons. "We always have the people who just want it for fun. Impress the neighbors at the BBQ," Throwflame founder Quinn Whitehead told CNN Money recently.
Here's a video, uploaded to Throwflame's Facebook account of their device in use. See more photos and videos right here, and read more at ARSTechnica and CNN Money.