How the NRA made it harder to investigate the Boston Marathon bombing

Taggants.  They’re back in the news, after two young men named Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev used homemade bombs, including gunpowder, to blow up nearly 200 people at the Boston Marathon last week.

It took investigators until a few days ago to find out where the Tsarnaev’s got the gunpowder from – a fireworks store in New Hampshire.  Why did it take so long?  Because gunpowder doesn’t contain taggants, a special identifier that can be slipped into gunpowder and which enables federal authorities to track when and where the explosive was made.

But gunpower in the United States doesn’t include taggants.  Why?  Because the NRA and its stooges in Congress have been saying “no” for twenty years.

Now, you might think it odd that the NRA, which normally concerns itself with panicking over any effort to diminish America’s gruesome gun violence, should care about explosives.  Ah, but you see, it’s all about the slippery slope.  First they come for the terrorists, then they come for Uncle Huckleberry and his bazooka.  The NRA also claims the taggants are dangerous.  Uh huh.

And that, sadly, is exactly what happened.  For twenty years the NRA and its friends in Congress have been saying no, and they’ve made it easier for terrorists to get away with murder by making it more difficult for federal authorities to figure out where the explosives came from in the first place, not to mention the time wasted doing such a search when a taggant would permit that time to be spent elsewhere.

As this article from 1995 points out, the NRA didn’t even want the government doing research on taggants.  So they blocked that too.

Boston-Marathon-front-pageAnd as NPR noted earlier this week, those taggants could have helped identify the Boston Marathon bombers a lot sooner, which could have helped thwart their planned attack on Times Square, that we learned about today.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has just introduced legislation to run background checks on anyone buying explosive powder.  The Hill notes that “under current law, people can buy up to 50 pounds of explosive ‘black powder’ with no background check, and can buy unlimited amounts of other explosive powders, such as ‘black powder substitute and ‘smokeless powder.'”

Greg Sargent asked four lead Senators who filibustered gun background checks what they think of having background checks for all explosives.  Three of them got back to him and said they’d have to look it over, a fourth didn’t even bother responding.

It’s one thing for the NRA to be de facto defending the Second Amendment rights of Islamic terrorists to buy the necessary components for a weapon of mass destruction, it’s another for members of Congress to get away with it.  Perhaps it’s time one of our advocacy groups started getting in the face of these members of Congress, and asking them why they want to help the next Tsarnaev-wannabes kill even more people.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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