Articles in the news this morning talk about the abilities and difficulties of using bomb forensics to trace the origin of the materials in the two explosive devices detonated in Boston.
There is technology that has been available for at least 30 years (I know because my wife worked on this issue for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee many years ago) that would make the tracing of the material much easier.
It’s called “taggants”, and, as I understand it, it is simple. Materials that ‘tag’ the source of explosives (where the explosives were made, sold?) can easily be added to materials that are used in bomb making. Our Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms has wanted to require this at least since the late 70s early 80s.
Repeatedly, the NRA has fought this legislation and defeated it. Something about ‘the camels nose in the tent’. Our Congress has caved every time.
Let’s try again.
Two ways to do this.
We could add taggant requirements to the current discussion and legislation about gun control, using the latest tragedy to highlight the issue. Perhaps our legislators would understand it is a reasonable and useful way to help our law enforcement experts trace and find the perpetrators of such horrors.
Or, if the NRA is too strong and our legislators too intimated, perhaps we could take a page from the lobbyists’ handbook and have a congressional staff or an ‘anonymous’ congressperson slip it (at the last moment) into whatever form of legislation does pass.
How can we not do this?
(Update 4/18/13: See an article I just saw posted – How the Gun Lobby Has Already Blocked Boston’s Bombing Investigations – speaks to this very issue.)
I have been aware of this tool for many years and always wondered why it wasn’t used. Your suggestion to connect it to the gun legislation is a good one though I think that this technology implies a much wider tagging of explosives like dynamite, C4, etc… in which case I don’t understand the NRA’s objection.
Joe Chamberlin said:
Too easy and thus something those in “power” will keep from happening. Not sure why NRA is so against any regulation. Did read an interesting quote in “A Year With Thomas Merton, Daily Meditations from His Journals” yesterday, the day after Boston:
“There is so much death in the newspapers that no one dies in them anymore and no one lives. There are neither lives nor deaths only a stream of words passing over the living and the dead without ever touching them.”
Sounds like the most intelligent thing I have read/heard so far on this issue! Who’s going to get a congressman to do this?
Bob Thurston said:
Thanks for this. How in the world has this issue stayed under the radar? Maybe just slipping it in is the way to go “Oh we were sure nobody would object to this!”
Diana Bunday said:
This sounds like a reasonable approach although I cannot say I think the congress today cares much for reasonable approaches nor does the NRA. Let us keep trying to help those in congress who do want to change things for the better.