After the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing in 1995, the Clinton Administration called on Congress to pass legislation to require all commercial materials that can be used to make explosives include special taggants — chemical materials that are not destroyed in the blast but that can survive it to help us pick up the scent to find the culprits.
Congress agreed to require detection taggants — substances included in explosives that dogs can smell and other equipment pick-up to indicate the presence of explosives. But it refused to pass legislation to require “identification” taggants to help us track down the party responsible.
As this column is being written, we do not yet know if the authorities have been able to apprehend any of the killers of the Boston Marathon Bombings. But we do know that they would have a better chance of doing so had Congress acted as it should have twenty years ago and required identification taggants. Switzerland is the only country in the world that requires such taggants.
What happened? A coalition of the NRA, explosive manufacturers, mining companies and the like complained that taggants would run up the cost of explosives and pose a major inconvenience. They won and stopped identification taggants from making it into the final law.
When the Atlanta Olympic bombing happened, many revisited the taggant issue. But there have been no explosion terror attacks on American soil since then and the taggant issue has not come up.
It is time it did. This elementary law enforcement tool must be included in our response to this horrific attack.
In addition, we must all pray for the health of those who are wounded and the consolation of the families of the dead. But let’s learn the lessons of this attack.
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