How The NRA Impeded The Boston Bomber InvestigationApril 20th, 2013 12:00 am David Cay Johnston
The intense hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers illustrates another way that the National Rifle Association helps mass murderers — by delaying how quickly they can be identified.
The inability to quickly track the gunpowders in the Boston bombs is due to government policy designed and promoted by the NRA, which has found a way to transform every massacre associated with weapons into an opportunity for the munitions companies that sustain it to sell more guns, gunpowder and bullets.
The price for such delays was put on terrible display Friday morning when the two brothers, who had been caught on video placing the bombs, killed one police officer, wounded another and carjacked a motorist, creating conditions so unsafe that the 7th largest population center in America spent Friday on lockdown.
But for the NRA-backed policy of not putting identifiers known as taggants in gunpowder, law enforcement could have quickly identified the explosives used to make the bombs, tracking them from manufacture to retail sale. That could well have saved the life of Sean Collier, the 26-year-old MIT police officer who was gunned down Thursday night by the fleeing bomb suspects.
Had the suspects in the Boston bombings killed by slipping poison into bottled water or canned food at a factory, or lacing spinach in a field with a deadly chemical, it would have taken only minutes to a few hours to identify exactly where that food was manufactured and how it moved through the food chain. That would have quickly narrowed the search for suspects.
With many food products you can use a smartphone app to scan the product’s barcode and learn where, when and by what company the product was made. Cans and bottles also come with codes printed or stamped on them to help stop foodborne illness by tracking products to their source.
“With almost any food these days you can quickly track it from the source to the store where it was sold,” according to Bill Marler, a Seattle litigator who specializes in food safety cases and sponsors the website Food Safety News.
Had the Boston bombers used a plastic explosive, it would have included identifiers that would have allowed a quick trace. Those taggants exist because the NRA does not oppose them.
Why is that? Why this breach in the NRA’s Maginot Line of defense against reasonable regulation of guns and ammunition?
The answer appears to lie in who makes plastic explosives like Semtx, which was used to bring down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The world’s main supplier was not a company that finances the NRA, but Libya under Moammar Khadafy.
That this one breach in NRA policy traces directly to the economic interests of the American munitions industry provides powerful evidence of what motivates the NRA – profits.
That the gun makers have managed to turn each massacre into a spike in sales of both expensive rapid-fire weapons and ammunition adds to the evidence that the NRA should be viewed as the mass-murder lobby.
The major source of plastic explosives may also be significant in understanding the NRA’s willingness to go along with taggants for plastic explosives, which are much more powerful than gunpowder.
But gunpowder, like guns, are extremely difficult to trace because for more than three decades the NRA has fought to make sure it’s difficult to almost impossible to do.
That difficulty results not from the technical issues at hand, though the NRA tries to make people think that’s the case by mischaracterizing a 1980 government report.
In the case of guns, the NRA claims anything remotely resembling a gun registry or a national database tracking guns from manufacturer to retail sale would help the government disarm the citizenry. In this the NRA fuels the fantasy that in the event the American government turned on the people, bands of armed patriots could defeat the military with its trained soldiers, aircraft, drones, advanced weaponry and communications.
Iraqi households almost all had guns, too, but that did not protect them from their country’s military or the invading American-led ground forces a decade ago.
Bombs have long been used in America for personal, criminal and political purposes. The frequency of bombings may surprise many people given the intense focus on the Boston bombs.
Roughly 5,000 bombings and attempted bombings are reported in the U.S. each year, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reports.
The ATF data, like that the FBI gathers, takes a broad measure, counting bombs made from matchsticks as well as dynamite.