In the wake of the deadly bombing attacks in Boston, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today announced that he will reintroduce legislation he has proposed in a prior Congress to require that sales of explosive powder be subject to a background check. He will also file the legislation as an amendment to the gun violence prevention bill currently on the Senate floor.
Current law allows an individual to purchase as much as 50 pounds of explosive "black powder" without a background check, and also permits an individual to purchase unlimited amounts of dangerous "smokeless powder" and "black powder substitute" without a background check. Sen. Lautenberg's proposal would change that and require a background check for any purchase of these explosive powders. These powders can be used as the explosive material in assembling pipe bombs, used in the Columbine school shooting, and pressure cooker bombs, which may have been used in the recent Boston attack.
"It is outrageous that anyone, even a known terrorist, can walk into a store in America and buy explosives without any questions asked," said Senator Lautenberg. "If we are serious about public safety, we must put these common-sense safeguards in place. While the police have not revealed what specific explosive materials were used in Boston, what we do know is that explosive powder is too easy to anonymously purchase across the country."
Lautenberg will introduce the "Explosive Materials Background Check Act," which will:
Require a background check to purchase black powder, black powder substitute, smokeless powder, or any other explosive, in any quantity;
Provide the Attorney General with the authority to stop the sale of explosives when a background check reveals that the applicant is a known or suspected terrorist and the Attorney General reasonably believes that the person may use the explosives in connection with terrorism; and
Make it illegal to manufacture homemade explosives without a permit.
Lautenberg introduced a similar proposal in 2003 as part of his "Homeland Security Gun Safety Act of 2003." Current law does not require an individual to produce a permit, identification or undergo a background check when purchasing up to fifty pounds of black powder. To make matters worse, no permit or background check is required for the purchase of any quantity of black powder substitute or smokeless powder. Current explosives laws also do not prevent the manufacture of homemade explosives without a license, unless the manufacturer is "engaged in the business" of making explosives.
In October 2010, Sen. Lautenberg released a report, "Firearms, Explosives and Terrorists -- A Looming Threat -- A Major U.S. Vulnerability," examining the dangers posed to the United States by terrorism attacks using explosives. The report points to the Mumbai attacks and attempted bombing in Times Square, as demonstrating the interest and ability of terrorists to launch attacks in the United States using explosives.