U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today re-introduced legislation that he had proposed in a prior Congress to require that sales of explosive powder be subject to a background check. The introduction of Lautenberg's legislation follows the tragic Boston bombing and the release of a report by the Violence Policy Center that highlights the NRA's influence in creating dangerous security loopholes that allows anybody, including terrorists, the ability to legally purchase explosive powders without a background check or permit.
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 were used in the recent Boston attack.
"It defies common-sense that anyone, even a terrorist, can walk into a store in America and buy explosive powders without a background check or any questions asked. Requiring a background check for an explosives permit is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of our communities. The NRA is hard at work putting the financial interests of weapons dealers and manufacturers over the public safety of our families and I applaud the Violence Policy Center for exposing the gun lobby's back room deals," stated Lautenberg.
Lautenberg's "Explosive Materials Background Check Act," would:
Require a background check to purchase black powder, black powder substitute, or smokeless powder, 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;
Make it illegal to manufacture homemade explosives without a permit; and
Direct ATF to conduct a study on the tagging of explosives, particularly black powder, black powder substitute, and smokeless powder, which could enable law enforcement to detect, identify, and trace explosives used in crimes.
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. Additionally, under current law, for those explosives that do require a permit to purchase, being a known or suspected terrorist does not disqualify a person from receiving a permit.
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.