It seems like only yesterday that George Bush II and his acolytes were leading the willing into Iraq to divest Saddam of the nuclear and chemical weapons that posed an imminent threat to the free world. These weapons – that were never found, were commonly called Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) which was the word of the year in 2002. In the Iraq context, WMD implied extremely sophisticated weaponry with the potential for massive killing and destruction.
It is therefore intriguing to see that the surviving suspect for the Boston bombing has been charged with using WMD. His home-made device comprised components that are all available over the counter in the U.S. (pressure cooker, assorted nails, black powder and a detonator made from remote control toy car parts. The usage of a ‘charged’ term (WMD) in the Boston case appears to reflect a level of outrage rather than an accurate portrayal of the capacity of the bomb. Under the Boston definition, most American homes have the capacity to construct WMD and the logical comparison with Iraq or North Korea is unfortunate.
Black powder, the key propellant in bullets and fireworks is available to firearm enthusiasts who like to make their own ammunition – which is apparently guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. However examples of its use in domestic explosives including recreational activities, can be seen in any number of You Tube clips. Although there are apparently some controls on obtaining powder (purchasers over 18 years and ‘limits’ of about 1kg per week), it is easily obtained via mail order or directly from sporting goods outlets.
Contrast this with New Zealand where powder is also available, but can only be purchased by a holder of a Firearms License who also has a Firearm & Ammunition Purchase Form signed by a Police Officer.
In terms of impact, there is little to distinguish the terrorism in Boston from the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School perpetrated by Adam Lanza with his Bushmaster rifle. Both actions were apparently undertaken by persons alienated from their community with easy access to weapons and little care for their fellow man. As such any distinction between the WMD (home made bomb) and the semi-automatic (45 rounds per minute) assault rifle with 30 round magazines is semantic – both are equally lethal.
Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, there have been thirty-one school shootings, but the only response by legislators has been a failure to extend the Federal Assault Weapons Ban which expired in 2004. The events at Boston and Sandy Hook were terrorism and their ‘success’ was facilitated by lax gun laws. Perhaps it is time to concentrate some of the War on Terror enthusiasm to controlling the means of undertaking domestic (U.S.) terror attacks be they high school shootings or home-made bombs.