Senate Dems eye background checks for explosive powder

Updated
 
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Getty Images

There’s been a fair amount of talk in recent weeks about background checks, or the lack thereof, for those trying to purchase guns in the United States. Less well known, however, is the fact that the law currently allows people to buy up to 50 pounds of explosive “black powder” with no background check, and buy unlimited amounts of other explosive powders, such as “black powder substitute” and “smokeless powder.”

Since explosive powder is used in, well, explosives, Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have unveiled a bill requiring new background checks. Lautenberg said in a statement, “It defies common sense that anyone, even a terrorist, can walk into a store in America and buy explosive powders without a background check or any questions asked.”

Is this also the sort of idea Republicans will reject? Greg Sargent reports:

I’ve reached out to four leading Senators – Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Mitch McConnell, all of whom filibustered to block any debate on the Toomey-Manchin compromise. Three of their offices – those of Cruz, Rubio, and McConnell – say they’re evaluating the proposal.

Aside from the substantive merits of the proposal, one of the political goals here is to challenge Republicans by testing just how far they are willing to go in opposing governmental action of this kind. “We’re trying to see if there’s any way to get them to Yes on background checks,” a Democratic aide tells me.

This might seem like the kind of idea even congressional Republicans would have trouble opposing, but it’s probably best to keep expectations in check. “The Last Word” reported just last week that explosives manufacturers are required to place tracing elements known as “identification taggants” in plastic explosives, but not in gunpowder. Why? Because the NRA lobbied to make it this way.

The policy made it impossible for the FBI to trace the gunpowder used in the Boston Marathon bombs to a buyer at a point of sale.

And if “identification taggants” are a bridge too far for the right, background checks on explosive powder will probably be a heavy lift.

Frank Lautenberg and Harry Reid

Senate Dems eye background checks for explosive powder

Updated