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Debate heats up as Michigan company manufactures flamethrowers

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WWMT - Flamethrowers
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WARREN, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The debate over a hot new gadget is heating up.

A Michigan company is peddling personal flamethrowers over the Internet.

And as we found, there's absolutely no regulation at this time.

The XM-42 is being sold as "the world's first fully handheld, grab and go flamethrower."

Depending on your point of view, it's either a fiery nightmare, or a flaming success for a tiny Michigan start up company.

"Most of our customers are way out in the country, and have property and they see a use for it. What I designed it for is just novelty, and then throughout development, throughout contact with fire departments, and customers, and potential customers that were interested in the product, they just described all kinds of different uses they would have for it, and gave us ideas on how to optimize the system for that," said designer Chris Byars.

Because these are not considered weapons, you can order a flamethrower in any state, except California and Ohio, where you need permits, and Maryland, where they're banned.

They are shipped with no background check, no questions asked.

The developer says his flamethrowers are being used for agricultural purposes: snow removal, rock shows, movies, and recreation.

"It's's fun...I get some girlfriends to come out and get some cool photos done because everyone wants to try one. But yeah, I like it. They're fun. I don't have one yet. I've been too busy building," said employee Amy Koffel.

In the first few months on the market, the company sold nearly one thousand personal flamethrowers. But not everyone's so "fired up" about the business.

"It's a weapon of mass destruction, period," said Warren Mayor James Fouts.

The flamethrowers are largely manufactured and assembled in Warren--near Detroit. Fouts is so concerned about it that he has virtually banned them in the entire town.

"I believe in second amendment rights. I'll defend your right to have a gun. This is not a gun. This is not a defensive weapon. This is an offensive weapon of mass destruction and it's not meant to be something that you use to protect your wife and family," he said.

Mayor Fouts is concerned that with no background checks, anyone--from teenager to terrorist--could get their hands on one of these.

A Cleveland area company, "ThrowFlame" is selling an even larger, backpack flamethrower called the X-15, that can shoot a flame 50 feet away.

According to theIR website they've shipped nearly 1,700 units.

"The damage that could be inflicted in a matter of seconds is unimaginable," said Colerain Township Assistant Fire Chief Allen Walls.

At this point though, in 49 states, including Ohio, these are totally legal.

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"I had one guy say to me...I'd like to have one because you never know when a horde of crazy people are going to come at your home, and I said you've been watching too much Walking Dead," Mayor Fouts said. "Outside of zombie attacks there's no need to have this."

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