Pa. lawmaker renews call to ban explosive rifle targets after NY bombing

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Pennsylvania lawmaker is renewing his calls to ban explosive rifle targets after a source told a national media organization investigators found remnants from that type of product at the site of Saturday’s bombing in New York.

A federal law enforcement official told USA Today they “found Tannerite residue” at the site. Tannerite manufactures popular explosive targets and the company name has become synonymous with the materials in the device.

That product is legal to buy here in Pennsylvania.

It’s sold under different names. At Staudt’s gun shop, ABC27 News found a brand called Shockwave retailing at $10 for a one-pound target.

As sold, it’s not dangerous. The product is what’s called a binary explosive because inside a plastic container with a screw-on lid are two different materials: ammonium nitrate and – in a separate, sealed bag – aluminum powder.

Mix the two together, shoot the container with a high-velocity rifle, and it explodes. That’s what attracts Staudt’s customers to the targets.

“It’s mostly people that have enough property of their own where they can go out and set these off without causing a distraction,” store owner Joe Staudt said.

Staudt said the targets are completely stable as sold. Companies that make them say it takes a high-powered rifle to set them off.

“It has to be a certain velocity in order to set it off,” Staudt said. “Handgun won’t do it.”

Similarly, the manufacturers say fuses and other similar types of detonators will not set off the explosives. Some argue otherwise.

The FBI, in an intelligence bulletin in March 2013, warned the devices could be used in bombs and the components could be used in improvised explosive devices.

“With the proper detonating device to simulate the 1,700 feet per second, that’s where I’ll go with it, it can be ignited,” Rep. Dom Costa (D-Pittsburgh) said.

Costa, formerly Pittsburgh’s police chief, authored a bill earlier this year to ban the possession, transportation, and sale of the targets. It’s sitting in committee.

“We’re actually helping terrorists if we keep these kinds of things around,” he said. “We’re making it easy for them.”

Costa knows his bill is going to be a tough sell. He plans to reintroduce it next session.

Tannerite issued a statement on their website saying they’re investigating themselves whether the explosive might have been used.

“The entire staff of Tannerite stands together in the abhorrence and unintended use of all products that are misused for violence and hate,” the statement reads, adding the company can’t “validate these allegations” while the investigation continues.

Staudt doesn’t want to see the targets banned.

“Anything is dangerous in the wrong hands,” he said. “You have to be careful of restricting everything because you have a couple bad people out there.”

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