Homemade bomb-making with easy-to-find items is a legal activity that can keep law enforcement from disrupting possible lone-wolf terrorist attacks, Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday.
Schumer said sleeper cells and radical terrorist sympathizers can legally make a bomb using household items such as chemicals from ice packs, nails and ball bearings, as well as black powder and fireworks. He announced legislation that would let U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials act before a homemade bomb plot develops beyond the creation of a deadly device.
“Because it’s so easy to obtain the rudimentary devices, people can make these things in their homes relatively easily,” Schumer said. “If they’re caught simply making explosive devices in their home, they haven’t done anything illegal.”
Schumer cited a recent how-to article on at-home explosives — “How to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” — in an al-Qaida magazine, as well as last week’s arrest of a 20-year-old Ohio man and alleged Islamic State sympathizer, Christopher Lee Cornell, who was accused of researching instructions for a pipe bomb and purchasing guns and ammo for an attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“As potential terrorists are incited by al-Qaida and others to act more individually, to act as lone wolves, our legal system and law enforcement tools must keep up,” Schumer said.
Schumer said the loophole means law enforcement officials have to wait until a suspected at-home bomb-maker commits an illegal act while putting together the device. He said current law only makes it illegal for businesses, not individuals, to create explosives without a license.
Under Schumer’s bill, law enforcement agents listening in on suspected terrorists can act during the process of building a bomb. A spokesman from the ATF could not immediately provide comment on Schumer’s bill.
“We want to give our law enforcement every tool in the book and they’ve told us they need this,” Schumer said.