April 20, 2013

The NRA & the Boston Marathon Bombing. ~ Neil Alexander

A Tale of Obstruction That has Reached into the Latest Massachusetts Massacre

You really have to wonder whose side the NRA is really on.

Their perverse deification of the second amendment has been abused past the point of any measure of common sense, as it is invoked time and time again to oppose the simplest common-sense measures intended to make guns traceable and keep them out of the hands of criminals.

But not just guns; even the black powder still used in some modern bullets has been rendered untrackable, despite the existence since the 70’s of a technology for placing tracers, called “taggants”, into the explosive.

While many modern forms of ammunition use smokeless powder, which is not black powder, black powder is still easily available in most sporting goods stores that sell firearms.

Black powder is reported to have been used in the Boston Marathon bombing as both an explosive and a propellant for the ball bearings, pieces of metal, and other shrapnel built into the bombs.

Taggants, of the type that would be used in black powder were it not for the NRA’s consistent opposition, are chemical markers that can be used to identify the manufacturer and even the specific lot. This could rapidly lead to both the exact seller and buyer of the materials.

Taggants can also be used to help identify the presence of other explosives, an aid in actions such as airport screenings, and might considerably lessen the widespread practice of arbitrary and intrusive searches in airports by the TSA.

Were they in use, they could have been instrumental in identifying the source of the black powder contained in the Boston explosives, and led more quickly to identifying the purchasers. This might have saved the life of the MIT police officer allegedly murdered by the bombing suspects Thursday night.

Astonishingly, the manufacturers of black powder have employed the NRA and their own lobbyists to defeat efforts aimed at placing taggants in their products, because they are afraid of the tort liability they might incur when those same products are used in bombings—not afraid of the damage and loss of life those bombings could cause.

Not afraid of the potential for misuse.

Not eager to help identify the perpetrators and, afraid it might cost them money.

The NRA has, of course, raised the specter of how anything that involves making an item traceable is a stepping stone to government agents descending on your house to confiscate your firearms and is tantamount to gun registration, a concept they seem to find horrific.

The incredible level of paranoia that the NRA employs and encourages raises another question: Is someone with such delusions of persecution really the type of person you would want trusted with ownership of a gun?

The NRA seems to think the answer is a firm yes—that the more paranoid you are the more of a real patriot you are, the more a true “Brother (or, one would assume, Sister) in Arms.”

How stockpiling untraceable weaponry and explosives in anticipation of everything from the end of days to rebel against the government, which presumably would include the sanction to shoot police officers and other enforcement agents of the government, became “Patriotism” is a question best left to mental health professionals.

In many countries, the inclusion of taggants in most explosives is mandatory. But here in the United States, while they are in use in plastic explosives as required by international treaty in the wake of airport bombings in the 90’s, they have been prohibited in black powder and other explosives, by the efforts of the NRA—acting not in the interests of the general public, but in the interests of protecting the pocket books of their corporate task masters.

A study by the Office of Technology Assessment back in 1980 asserted that the use of taggants could increase arrests for bombing incidents by as much as 75%.

It has been suggested by law enforcement officials that the use of taggants could have had tremendous value in the first World Trade Center car bombing in 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the Unabomber serial attacks which went unsolved for many years.

But each time legislation has been proposed to introduce the use of taggants, the NRA has managed to block it.

It raises the question, once again, of who the NRA is really trying keep safe.


Further resources:

1. MSNBC: How the gun lobby has already blocked Boston’s bombing investigators.

2. MSNBC: The Last Word.

3. Daily Kos: Bombing Investigation Severely Hampered by NRA. Demand Congress Act Now.

4. LA Times: Oklahoma City: After the Bomb: Lobbyists Stymie Effort to Trace Explosives.



Neil Alexander is a professional magician, a Tai Chi enthusiast and occasionalTai Chi instructor, and the owner of the Online Ginseng Store. A former nightclub comic who spent years on the road, he currently resides in his hometown of NYC, and has lived on both coasts and several points in between. An unabashed practitioner of the art of alliteration and its resultant mix of prose and poetry, he is on an endless quest to uncover the perfect word—the philosopher’s stone of writers. In the meantime he is willing to accept all reasonable substitutions.



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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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