Opinion: Flare guns (Firearms, or not?)

POSTED: 10/4/11 12:29 PM

The tragic accident that cost a three-year-old toddler her life has triggered a discussion about the status of flare guns. They are not firearms in the sense of the law, but as the accident proves, they are certainly capable of killing someone.

Should we then outlaw flare guns and treat them the same way we treat shotguns and revolvers? That is a bit of a stretch, because there is a big difference between firearms and flare guns. Firearms are designed to kill. Flare guns are designed to send out distress signals.

But unfortunately, as this weekend’s accident shows, flare guns are also capable of killing people. In the past, flare guns have been modified to take real ammunition. According to the How Stuff Works website such modified flare guns are a real pain in the neck on countries with tight gun control laws.

The site claims that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh once claimed that he could convert flare guns into rocket launchers capable of shooting down government helicopters. McVeigh was executed in 2001 in Indiana, so he won’t be able to ply his deadly trade anymore – but there must be plenty of others around that carry similar ideas in their heads.

Flare guns could cause serious damages. In 2009 two brothers were sentenced to 90 days in jail and 500 hours of community service; they had fired a flare during the Fourth of July celebrations in 2007. Unfortunately for the brothers, the flare caused a fire in a meatpacking plant. Four buildings were destroyed and the total damages amounted to $50 million. In 1989 a similar incident caused a fire in New York that injured seventeen firefighters.

Flare guns are relatively cheap in the United States. The cheapest models go for around fifty dollars, while more expensive models cost several hundred dollars.

In St. Maarten, Budget Marine sells a 12 gauge alert kit for $98.91, and a 25 mm Ultimate Marine signal Kit for $271.13. The latter comes with a “corrosion resistant cast aluminum safety launcher – marketing speak for a flare gun.

A flare gun is not a weapon, but neither is a kitchen knife, a skillet or a machete. But all these items and many others – like cars, baseball bats, and so on – could be used as such. We’re not going to outlaw skillets because some nutcase used one to bash in somebody’s head.

It is easy to obtain all these items, and it is also easy to buy a flare gun. Rather than calling for stricter legislation, it seems to us a good idea to make people aware of the damage flare guns are capable of doing. Like with real guns and bullets, it makes sense to keep the “safety launcher’ and the flares separate. It’s too little, too late for the toddler that perished this weekend, but nothing stops us from making sure that such a drama does not happen again.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Flare guns (Firearms, or not?) by

Comments are closed.