Thursday, April 24, 2008

Regulate the Sale of Ammonium Nitrate

I’m sure the blogosphere is full of stories about the South Carolina teenager that was going to blow up his high school with an ammonium nitrate bomb. I would like to add a brief piece to the discussion from a slightly different perspective, the sale of the ammonium nitrate. I saw one news report on CBS-TV Tuesday morning that an interviewee (I did not get the guys name, I’m sorry) bemoaned the lack of action in the US Senate on a bill to control the sale of ammonium nitrate. I would like to set the record straight on that issue.

He was referring to H.R. 1680, the ‘‘Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act of 2007’’. A search of www.Thomas.Loc.Gov (an excellent source for tracking legislation) shows that the last action on this legislation was on October 24, 2007. That action was "Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs." This may be where the interviewee got his information.

Actually, the reason that there has been no further action taken on this bill is that it was incorporated into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (HR 2764), passed and signed into law last December (see: "DHS and the Omnibus Spending Bill"). Subtitle J, Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate, of that bill is a virtual duplicate of H.R. 1680. So Congress and the President have taken action on regulating the sale of ammonium nitrate.

DHS is in the process of drafting rules that would require the registration of sellers and buyers of ammonium nitrate. They have until the end of June of this year to publish the proposed rules. Though I am not privy to the development of those rules, I am quite sure that they would prohibit the type sale that allowed this teenager to buy 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate over eBay.

A special note: today on eBay I found only two listings for ammonium nitrate (the chemical):

  • Ammonium Nitrate Laboratory Chemical Reagent 30 grams (Item number: 190216386872)
  • Ammonium Nitrate, 99% Pure, Custom Milled 1oz Bottles (Item number: 180212290376)

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