Friday, March 07, 2003

New Threat: Model Rockets!

A provision deep within the regulations of the new Homeland Security Act is threatening to shut down the popular hobby of model rocketry because the propellant used to make the rocket’s solid-fueled motors is now classified as explosive material. This is no joke, although the Homeland Security apparatus that the administration is putting into place has been testing the limit between danger and humor on almost a daily basis. Now, it is just possible that a grandmother in a wheelchair might be carrying a weapon or a bomb. It may well be true that a bomb could be carried in a bottle of soda... and it can be shown as harmless by making the passenger take a swig out of the bottle. But Model Rockets? As a child I played with these same items that Big Brother now wants to protect us from. My 12 year old son plays with them now. It is inconceivable that these rocket motors could constitute a threat to our security. At least no more of a threat than matches, or freely available butane gas.

As noted on Science Fiction Today:
On May 24, every employee of any shipping entity who could possibly touch a package of in-transit model rocket engines on their way to a kid's mailbox or store has to be explosives-handling certified, fingerprinted and pass a criminal background check. UPS, some trucking and railroad firms have stopped shipping the motors; Fed Ex employees have indicated to some model rocket flyers they likely will follow suit in the coming weeks. "It is the heart of the problem we face. Because if manufacturers like Estes can't get rocket motors delivered to stores, the hobby is completely dead," according to Tim Van Milligan, president of Apogee Rockets in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Note that no one has ever used a model rocket in a crime. These rockets can loft only tiny payloads, and only to very low altitudes. If these rockets should be banned, why not radio controlled planes? They are surely even more dangerous. And if it is the material that these motors are made of is the threat, then, logically, matches must also be banned. After all, match heads HAVE been used to make pipe bombs that have been used in criminal activity. (Links here and here and here). The Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, used match heads in his earliest bombs, yet there is no movement to ban matches. Yet.