Dumb and Dumber, revisited
Posted by aogTuesday, 29 July 2003 at 22:37 TrackBack Ping URL

Senator “Election law doesn’t apply to me” Lautenberg (D - NJ) and Senator Schumer (D - NY) have joined stupidities to help shut down model rocketry. Their press release is chock full of flat out non-factual statements. I might have some shred of understanding if this wasn’t clearly something they care about only for grandstanding purposes.

The legislation in question has been sponsored by Senator Enzi (R - WY). It would raise the limits on the amount of black powder and composite propellant that can be purchased without a license. The black powder limit (used for getting the parachute out of the rocket) is fine but the propellant limit is still quite low but the opinion of the rocketry community is better half a loaf than none.

But Schumer and Lautenberg have no interest in the actual facts or merits of the legislation. Let’s run through a few of these.

a Republican sponsored bill that would exempt the purchase of certain explosives used to launch ‘high-powered hobby rockets’ from federal license, permit and background check requirements currently in place

Not true. The only background checks are for storing large motors. There is actually no limit on the total amount of propellant that can be stored without a license if you buy small motors. I can have 50 kilos of propellant if I buy a lot of small motors but I can’t store a single 70 gram motor without an explosives storage permit from the ATF. One of the changes Enzi’s legislaton makes is to regulate storage based on the total amount of propellant and not what units it happens to be in.

The legislation (S.724) […] would allow terrorists and criminals to acquire large amounts of explosive rocket propellant without law enforcement’s knowledge

I guess this depends on what one means by “large”. And, as noted above, this is quite possible now.

“Allowing anybody to walk into a store and buy huge amounts of rocket fuel is crazy.” said Lautenberg.”

Again with the “huge”. I’ve seen the Enzi legislation and I don’t think the amounts there can be described as “huge”. The rocketry community sees them as small. I fly motors with 250g of propellant and I do not fly what are considered “large” rockets. A 400g (.9 pound) limit doesn’t go very far at that rate. But the way Lautenberg is talking you’d think that terrorists will be pulling in to Walmart with Ryder trucks to load up.

“Why anyone in the post-9/11 world would think that making it easier to get bomb-making materials is a good idea is beyond me” Schumer said.

Bomb making material? You can’t make bombs out of composite propellant. As for black powder, just get an antique firearm and you can have 50 pounds of it without a license. Schumer also seems to think that the Unabomber used APCP to build his bombs, which is once agan completely false.

The Homeland Security Act law requires purchasers of the explosives most commonly used in high-power hobby rockets – ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP) and black powder – to undergo background checks and get permits from the ATF

Just not true. A complete and utter fabrication. I buy both of these, legally, and have never had a background check or gotten a permit from the ATF. Again, the laws on the books today deal only with storage. Finally, just to inject a bit of science, APCP is not an explosive.

“Passing legislation to loosen rules on buying explosive rocket fuel is not just irresponsible, it’s crazy,” said Lautenberg

Fine. Just let me buy my APCP, a non-explosive rocket fuel.

See also the NAR response.