After Boston bombing, senator proposes ‘black powder’ background checks

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While everyone was caught up in finding the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., issued a public statement proposing that the sale of explosive powder be subject to background checks. Lautenberg is using the bombing as a prompt, even though materials used to make the bomb have not been identified.

“It is outrageous that anyone, even a known terrorist, can walk into a store in America and buy explosives without any questions asked,” Lautenberg said in the statement. “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.”

Current law allows an individual to purchase as much as 50 pounds of explosive “black powder,” or unlimited amounts of “smokeless powder” and “black powder substitute,” without a background check.

Lautenberg wants to change that by introducing the “Explosive Materials Background Check Act,” and his website listed that the legislation would:

  • 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.

While analysis of the Boston bombing is in the early stages, there is no indication that black powder background checks would prevent a future occurrence. A report by noted:

Of the $27.8 Billion spent each year on firearms, ammunition, clothing, reloading equipment, optics, and accessories by the American public, only about 7-8% of all gun owners reload their own ammunition on a regular basis,. This means that only a relatively small amount of people purchase black powder explosives each year, and there is little statistical evidence that its use in criminal activity is widespread.

Lautenberg’s legislation could potentially hurt a retail product that contributes to the $67.8 billion economic impact that hunting and firearm ownership adds to the nation’s annual GDP, according to


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