NRA Blocks Taggants: ‘The Blaze’ Goes After Lawrence O’Donnell’s Accurate Claim

News Media, Sensible Gun Safety 11 5

Last night on MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” host Lawrence O’Donnell said, “The NRA’s efforts to guarantee that American mass murderers are the best-equipped mass murders in the world is not limited to murderers who use assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

O’Donnell, with his usual flare for drama (he was a writer and producer for “The West Wing” after all), was talking about the National Rifle Association’s successful effort to block “taggants” in gunpowder. Taggants are microscopic substances added to  products to identify the time and source of manufacturing. The additional of taggants to the gunpowder used in the Boston Marathon bombs might have aided the investigation, but we will never know, because gunpowder is taggant-free thanks to the NRA.

“The NRA is also in the business of helping bombers get away with their crimes. Gunpowder could be traced by investigators to a buyer at the point of sale if gunpowder contained a taggant, an element that would enable tracing of the purchase of gunpowder,” said O’Donnell. “But thanks to the National Rifle Association, identification taggants are required by law only in plastic explosives. The NRA has successfully blocked any requirements for such taggants in gunpowder. So such supremely helpful evidence as taggants are not available to the FBI in this investigation.”

The conservative website “The Blaze,” takes issue with O’Donnell’s accusations, but author Becket Adams fails to successfully dispute O’Donnell’s claim, going after style instead. “[N]o one was more adamant about their hatred for the NRA than MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell who last night accused the civil rights group of aiding and abetting the terrorist(s) responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings,” said Adams.

Did you know the NRA is a civil rights group? Funny, I thought civil rights were human rights, as in, things humans can do with their minds and their person — freely. The Second Amendment is a guarantee to a material right, not a civil right. Therefore, the NRA is not a civil rights group.

“So, whether they know it or not, NRA members apparently fund an organization that’s in the business of equipping mass murderers,” said Adams. “Learn something new every day.” I find the later highly unlikely.

On substance, O’Donnell is correct, and a Los Angeles Times article from 1996 backs him up. “The new federal budget bill funds a study of whether taggants can trace explosives in bombs like the one that blasted the revelers in Centennial Olympics Park,” said John Shepard Wiley Jr. “Law enforcement has favored this sensible policy for years, but the powerful National Rifle Assn. has blocked the measure.” The NRA’s opposition to taggants is due to their usual paranoia about federal government overreach. But the NRA’s values do not line up with most Americans.

The addition of taggants to gunpowder could aid the FBI’s investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing. And federal investigators have known this for decades. “Taggants are not new,” said John Shepard Wiley Jr. from that 1996 LA Times article. “In the late 1970s, a federal pilot project added taggants to explosives. When a 1979 car bomb killed Nathan Allen of Baltimore, taggant evidence from the bomb led investigators to Allen’s murderer.”

So The Blaze goes after O’Donnell, but they fail to recognize that nothing O’Donnell reported was inaccurate. O’Donnell may have engaged in a bit of dramatic hyperbole, but his substance was sound.

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David K. Sutton

Chief Writer and Editor of The Left Call - I'm a full-time IT engineer, part-time political blogger. I founded The Left Call in 2011 because I believe in social justice, economic equality, and the idea of forming a more perfect union. In addition to written content, I also host the LEFT CALL RADIO Podcast.

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  • Michael Ducharme

    The fact remains that no country in the world uses taggants for sporting class gunpowder because no taggants exist that work for this purpose. Therefore any gunpowder used in the Boston attacks wouldn’t have taggants regardless of what the NRA did or didn’t block. The NRA has no influence what so ever in stopping any other country in the world from doing research or developing these taggants, so why haven’t they? These countries haven’t done this research because it isn’t an easy problem to fix (billions in research) and not worth the benefit over developing other methods, for example crowd sourcing worked much faster then taggant tracing would have with the Boston Bombers. Besides what programs do you want to take billions of dollars out of to do this research, science, education, Medicare, USAID, cure for cancer. The money is better spent where it is.

    • David K. Sutton

      It’s the traceability and potential need for registration of gun powder purchases (to make it effective) that is the main driver of opposition. The safety issue is a red herring. You might be right that the cost equation would make it impractical, but I’m not convinced sufficient research has been done, due in no small part to opposition.

      • WuzYoungOnceToo

        I reload, and unlike you I actually know something about the subject. So does the NAS, and we both know that you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

  • WuzYoungOnceToo

    - “On substance, O’Donnell is correct, and a Los Angeles Times article from 1996 backs him up. “The new federal budget bill funds a study of whether taggants can trace explosives in bombs like the one that blasted the revelers in Centennial Olympics Park,” said John Shepard Wiley Jr. “Law enforcement has favored this sensible policy for years, but the powerful National Rifle Assn. has blocked the measure.””

    Don’t you morons do ANY research before spouting this stupidity? About 5 minutes with Google would have turned up not only 2A-friendly liberals debunking O’Donnell’s BS even on left-leaning sites like Democratic Underground…but also the report from the National Academies of Science on the study that they DID CONDUCT after being directed to do so by Congress (it was not only not blocked by the NRA…they were the ones who proposed it to congress). It was THAT report that found that there were no effective and safe means of implementing taggants in commercial gunpowder, and explicitely recommended against doing so for those reasons.

    Oh, and gunpowder wasn’t even used in the bombs that were exploded in Boston. And when O’Donnell went on his insane rant there was absolutely no information released by investigators indicating that it was, so his basic premise was something he pulled out of his own rectum to begin with. The clown is a pathological liar.

    • David K. Sutton

      5 minutes with google will turn up plenty in support of more research as well. You can pick and choose just as you’ve apparently claimed I have.

      • WuzYoungOnceToo

        Nice red herring you’ve got there. I didn’t pick and choose anything. I cited the facts that were relevant to O’Donnel’s and your claims, and proves them wrong. The premise was that gunpowder was used in the bombs. That was completely groundless, and ultimately proven false. On top of that dishonest foundation was laid the bovine fecal matter assertion that the NRA somehow stopped Congress from mandating the addition of taggants to commercial gunpowder, which was proven false by the NAS study as the basis for that decision. Whether or not more research can/should be done has nothing to do with your claims of NRA obstruction.

        The consistent theme her is dishonesty on your part.

      • WuzYoungOnceToo

        - “The addition of taggants to gunpowder could aid the FBI’s investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing.”

        Not true. But even if it were, a reasonably intelligent person would at least waited until they knew what explosive(s) was/were used in the bombs before making that claim. But neither you nor O’Donnell are that bright, and the fact that gunpowder was NOT used serves to make you both look all the more foolish….and the rest of your clueless rant an exercise in baseless stupidity.

        • David K. Sutton

          You made that assessment just on this one topic alone without even know me? Tell me, which is more likely — (a) Clairvoyance runs in your family or (b) You get off on insulting people you don’t know, anonymously over the internet.

          • WuzYoungOnceToo

            We also have the fact that nearly three months after the fact you still have yet to acknowledge that your claims were ill-informed, mindlessly regurgitated bullshit. A brighter person would have avoided continuing to look like an idiot by simply manning up and admitting their obvious error. But instead you just keep doubling down on it. Yeah, you’re obviously a real rocket surgeon.

          • David K. Sutton

            I’m not making claims, I cited my sources. You can question the accuracy of those sources, that’s your prerogative. I don’t have a horse in this race like you do, so I honestly don’t care if taggants are used or not. But the NRA did lobby against their use. This is a fact. Because of this, excuse me if I’m less than certain enough research was done on the topic.

          • WuzYoungOnceToo

            And you’re still lying. This entire piece is a claim that O’Donnell’s screed was “accurate” (it’s right there in your title and everything). The foundation of that screed was that gunpowder was used in the bombs. That the very foundation of his argument was bullshit is sufficient to discredit the entire thing…though you continue to ignore that fact. The rest was a hyperbolic rant claiming that the NRA had somehow stopped Congress from mandating

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