Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-01-2010, 01:43 PM
gurujulp gurujulp is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Oakland, CA
Posts: 1,133
Weapons of mass destruction- kitchen bombs- is this a valid charge?

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/201...-suspects.html

Let's not go into whether she should have been charged for something her kids are making- that could go either way and trainwreck to easily-

Lets stick with this question- do you think a charge of weapons of mass destruction is valid for a kitchen bomb? I think of WMDs as things that can kill thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions, like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc.

Something you can make, even that could kill hundreds, would not fit the bill.

What do you think?
  #2  
Old 11-01-2010, 01:51 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Suburbs of Chicagoland
Posts: 22,337
I suspect their legal term - assuming that is one and not something the writer threw in - is rather different from what you're thinking simply because they're using it for something you could do at the state or county level, versus a mass terrorism/war act. And I don't know for sure, but wasn't the "WMD" definition as it's lately used a rather recent thing?

Side note: I'm not swayed by the defense's contention that the mom didn't know what those chemicals all over the house were, because either way it meant she tolerated them being there. If you're talking about teen boys and chemicals, either they're going to blow stuff up, or they're going to try to get high, and you need to stop the experiments before your house burns down or the cops show up. They're not going to be brewing up a miracle household cleanser or something, so shrugging your shoulders is inexcusable.
  #3  
Old 11-01-2010, 01:53 PM
silenus silenus is offline
The Turtle Moves!
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: SoCal
Posts: 48,561
Depends on how they define "dangerous amounts of unstable explosive." But I seriously doubt they could get a conviction on possession of a WMD out of this. It's probably just a bargaining chip to make sure her bond is pretty substantial.

I sit corrected. NC Criminal Code defines WMD as:

§ 14‑288.8. Manufacture, assembly, possession, storage, transportation, sale, purchase, delivery, or acquisition of weapon of mass death and destruction; exceptions.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, assemble, possess, store, transport, sell, offer to sell, purchase, offer to purchase, deliver or give to another, or acquire any weapon of mass death and destruction.

(snip)

(c) The term "weapon of mass death and destruction" includes:

(1) Any explosive or incendiary:

a. Bomb; or

b. Grenade; or

c. Rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces; or

d. Missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one‑quarter ounce; or

e. Mine; or

f. Device similar to any of the devices described above;


So she can definitely be charged under NC law.

Last edited by silenus; 11-01-2010 at 01:58 PM.
  #4  
Old 11-01-2010, 02:03 PM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Posts: 11,416
For purposes of U.S. federal criminal law, "weapons of mass destruction" are defined to include not only chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, but also "destructive devices", which in turn basically just means bombs and the like, and clearly includes all kinds of things ("rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces"..."missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce") which are not remotely in the Hiroshima class of objects that the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" normally brings to mind.

I agree it's sort of weird to use the dreaded "WMD" to refer to pipe bombs and things like that.

NOTE: So, it looks like North Carolina is likely just following the Feds on this one.
__________________
"In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves." -- Carl Sagan

Ceterum censeo imperium Trumpi esse delendam
  #5  
Old 11-01-2010, 02:06 PM
gurujulp gurujulp is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Oakland, CA
Posts: 1,133
I think it is rather sad to do this, although I understand why having it possible to throw the book is better than not having a charge there...

Sad- I like the let a hundred men go free rather than punish one innocent...

And I completely agree with Ferret Herder- boys are gonna blow stuff up, so you better be on the lookout!

I wasn't allowed to blow stuff up at home...
  #6  
Old 11-01-2010, 11:23 PM
Jimmy Chitwood Jimmy Chitwood is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Near Philadelphia
Posts: 6,485
It would probably be a good idea to reflect for a second on what it really means to have something that "could kill hundreds," in the sense in which you meant that phrase.

That's... pretty massive destruction, and an attack of that magnitude would be on a pretty short list if it was pulled off successfully. Oklahoma City killed 168. I'm not sure what the practical use would be of a definition of weapons of mass destruction that wouldn't have included the mechanism for that attack.
  #7  
Old 11-02-2010, 01:03 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 10,351
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferret Herder View Post
Side note: I'm not swayed by the defense's contention that the mom didn't know what those chemicals all over the house were, because either way it meant she tolerated them being there. If you're talking about teen boys and chemicals, either they're going to blow stuff up, or they're going to try to get high, and you need to stop the experiments before your house burns down or the cops show up. They're not going to be brewing up a miracle household cleanser or something, so shrugging your shoulders is inexcusable.
Ummm... not so sure I agree. My mom (single parent household) was kind of dumb. I supposed I could have taken advantage, but I was too naive at the time to do so. In short, I had chemistry sets, she didn't know better, I ordered extra supplies, and I kept learning. I didn't know what "nerd" or "geek" meant back then (not sure they were in common use), and it was just fun. No drugs. No (extreme) explosives. Just inquisitiveness. As an adult (and not stupid like my mother [I do love her]), I'd be wondering what my kids are up to, but I know from experience that not all parents are capable of that.

(The linked-to article is now 404'd, so I don't know all of the details.)
  #8  
Old 11-02-2010, 01:20 AM
Snowboarder Bo Snowboarder Bo is online now
Member
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Las Vegas
Posts: 20,450
This is hardly surprising. Y'all do remember that a cup filled with ice is now a missile, right? And, gee, lookee there. That was also in North Carolina.

ETA:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar View Post
(The linked-to article is now 404'd, so I don't know all of the details.)
I found the story at

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/201...g-suspect.html

after I got the same 404. If you get the charlotteobserver.com site, just search for "pen bomb". On preview, it looks like the block incoming links or something.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 11-02-2010 at 01:23 AM.
  #9  
Old 11-02-2010, 06:41 AM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Suburbs of Chicagoland
Posts: 22,337
Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar View Post
Ummm... not so sure I agree. My mom (single parent household) was kind of dumb. I supposed I could have taken advantage, but I was too naive at the time to do so. In short, I had chemistry sets, she didn't know better, I ordered extra supplies, and I kept learning. I didn't know what "nerd" or "geek" meant back then (not sure they were in common use), and it was just fun. No drugs. No (extreme) explosives. Just inquisitiveness. As an adult (and not stupid like my mother [I do love her]), I'd be wondering what my kids are up to, but I know from experience that not all parents are capable of that.

(The linked-to article is now 404'd, so I don't know all of the details.)
OK, chemistry sets are one thing, but it sounded from the article like they had lots of stuff around the house, singe marks, and a hole had been blown in her bedroom wall.

I would have loved a chemistry set, but my parents weren't keen on it. Just because I express curiosity over why on earth you weren't supposed to mix the dishwashing liquid with bleach or ammonia (I no longer remember which) - and I didn't even try it or anything.
  #10  
Old 11-02-2010, 08:17 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Posts: 26,261
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Chitwood View Post
It would probably be a good idea to reflect for a second on what it really means to have something that "could kill hundreds," in the sense in which you meant that phrase.

That's... pretty massive destruction, and an attack of that magnitude would be on a pretty short list if it was pulled off successfully. Oklahoma City killed 168. I'm not sure what the practical use would be of a definition of weapons of mass destruction that wouldn't have included the mechanism for that attack.
In the past, "weapon of mass destruction" basically did refer to weapons that caused pretty massive destruction. Typically strategic and tactical nuclear, biological and chemical devices typically deployed by the military. They were distinct from conventional weapons, even massively destructive ones like a Mark 84 2000 lb bomb or even the 22000lb GBU-43/B MOAB bomb.

With all the hysteria over terrorism (both foreign and domestic) in the recent decades, the media and legislaters apparently have glommed onto the term to include anything that can kill a bunch of people. Car bombs. Pipe bombs. Home made radiological devices. And apparently kids mixing up shit in their basement (I can't seem to access the link).

So in a sense, the term has become diluted and meaningless.
  #11  
Old 11-02-2010, 10:47 AM
Jimmy Chitwood Jimmy Chitwood is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Near Philadelphia
Posts: 6,485
And that simply isn't true, is what I'm saying.

In the past, what "weapons of mass destruction" meant was bombs; more or less exactly what it sounds like it means, and not any particularly diabolical ones. Wikipedia says it was coined in 1937, when strategic and tactical nuclear/biological devices weren't even a thing. It's not possible that that meaning has been diluted, since the phrase predates the existence of such weapons. The scope of what weapons can do on the more destructive side has increased, but it's completely false to say that somehow "the media and legislators" changed the meaning of the word so that more innocuous weapons are now being counted. A bomb big enough to e.g. bring down a building has, since the term was invented, been a weapon of mass destruction. Because that's what those words mean.

If anything, the modern hysterical trend has functioned in the opposite direction -- pushing regular old bombs that can kill huge groups of people into a more mundane category in favor of scarier GI Joe plot devices like anthrax attacks, or nuclear weapons during the Cold War, or whatever else is the flavor of the month/decade. I think the fact remains that if somebody is putting together a bomb big enough to blow up more than their own basement, it's a fair characterization to call that a weapon of mass destruction as a legal distinction.

Last edited by Jimmy Chitwood; 11-02-2010 at 10:51 AM.
  #12  
Old 11-02-2010, 11:01 PM
rbroome rbroome is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Louisiana
Posts: 2,869
Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Depends on how they define "dangerous amounts of unstable explosive." But I seriously doubt they could get a conviction on possession of a WMD out of this. It's probably just a bargaining chip to make sure her bond is pretty substantial.

I sit corrected. NC Criminal Code defines WMD as:

§ 14‑288.8. Manufacture, assembly, possession, storage, transportation, sale, purchase, delivery, or acquisition of weapon of mass death and destruction; exceptions.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, assemble, possess, store, transport, sell, offer to sell, purchase, offer to purchase, deliver or give to another, or acquire any weapon of mass death and destruction.

(snip)

(c) The term "weapon of mass death and destruction" includes:

(1) Any explosive or incendiary:

a. Bomb; or

b. Grenade; or

c. Rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces; or

d. Missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one‑quarter ounce; or

e. Mine; or

f. Device similar to any of the devices described above;


So she can definitely be charged under NC law.
I point out there is no minimum size for bomb, grenade or mine in this definition. So a toy cap gun is a weapon of mass distruction. I understand that the people who wrote these laws weren't interested in protecting people's freedom-they were more concerned with protecting people. But it results in degradation of the language and our society. Anything explosive is a WMD, so everything explosive is illegal. Ammunition certainly qualifies. I wonder how the NRA feels about that. fuses, fireworks, noisemakers....
  #13  
Old 11-02-2010, 11:46 PM
Princhester Princhester is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 14,257
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Chitwood View Post
A bomb big enough to e.g. bring down a building has, since the term was invented, been a weapon of mass destruction. Because that's what those words mean.
Language is a fluid thing. What WMD meant in 1937 is irrelevant. The term WMD has been in recent times used most prominently (indeed almost exclusively) in the context of the Bush administration with reference to Iraq and terrorism and that usage has swamped any previous usage (even assuming you are correct about what that usage was).

When Bush used the term he did not use it to mean just any old bombs and nor was he understood to mean that. He used it to mean (and was understood to mean) chemical and biological and nuclear weapons. Do you think that when Bush said Saddam had WMD he meant Saddam had some grenades? Do you think anyone thought he meant that? As I understand it, there is wide contention about whether Saddam had WMD and whether any were found in Iraq post invasion. Yet Saddam undoubtedly had a large supply of conventional bombs, grenades and firecrackers some undoubtedly containing more than a quarter of an ounce of explosive. If your contention about what the term means is correct, how could it even have been seriously contended that he did not have WMD?

I could be wrong but I am pretty sure that you will find that the Federal and State laws that use the term WMD were written in the context of post 9/11 terrorism and the most recent Iraq war. They are probably an example of sneaking oppressive laws through a legislature by using deceptive definitions.

Last edited by Princhester; 11-02-2010 at 11:47 PM.
  #14  
Old 11-03-2010, 10:58 AM
Jimmy Chitwood Jimmy Chitwood is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Near Philadelphia
Posts: 6,485
The question in response to which this discussion is taking place is "is this a valid charge," though. What I am saying is that regardless of the popular parlance, it is and has always been a valid charge, because the phrase has a legal definition, whatever fluidity our conversational usage has.

What has changed is the external context for the use of the phrase, which results in absurd statements like the one rbroome just made about how legislators -- by making possession of bombs illegal -- are running roughshod over your freedoms. A bomb is a weapon of mass destruction. Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are the weapons of mass destruction Colin Powell said Iraq was stockpiling. The fact that we were wrong when we said that about WMDs in Iraq doesn't work backward to make it wrong for a federal prosecutor to charge some homebrew bombmaker with this offense.

With respect to your point about the laws, you be the judge:

Quote:
(c) Definitions.— For purposes of this section—

...

(2) the term “weapon of mass destruction” means—
(A) any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title;
(B) any weapon that is designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors;
(C) any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector (as those terms are defined in section 178 of this title); or
(D) any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life; and
Quote:
Originally Posted by § 921. Definitions
(4) The term “destructive device” means—
(A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—
(i) bomb,
(ii) grenade,
(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,
(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,
(v) mine, or
(vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;
(B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and
(C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.
These two statutes were enacted in 1994 and 1968, respectively.
  #15  
Old 11-07-2010, 09:26 PM
rbroome rbroome is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Louisiana
Posts: 2,869
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Chitwood View Post
The question in response to which this discussion is taking place is "is this a valid charge," though. What I am saying is that regardless of the popular parlance, it is and has always been a valid charge, because the phrase has a legal definition, whatever fluidity our conversational usage has.

What has changed is the external context for the use of the phrase, which results in absurd statements like the one rbroome just made about how legislators -- by making possession of bombs illegal -- are running roughshod over your freedoms. A bomb is a weapon of mass destruction. Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are the weapons of mass destruction Colin Powell said Iraq was stockpiling. The fact that we were wrong when we said that about WMDs in Iraq doesn't work backward to make it wrong for a federal prosecutor to charge some homebrew bombmaker with this offense.

With respect to your point about the laws, you be the judge:


These two statutes were enacted in 1994 and 1968, respectively.
thanks-I think.
I wasn't being absurd nor, at least not deliberately-I was limiting my comments to the definitions as cited earlier in the thread and repeated in your reply. I am not referring to any external context.

Section 921 defines a weapon of mass destruction as, among other things, a "bomb" or a "mine". There is no limitation on size. A large bomb is a destructive devis. A small bomb is a destructive device. That is all I am referring to. Given that definition, any amount of explosive qualifies as a "bomb".

To extend the discussion, I find that in 921, the Attorney General is allowed to not consider a given item a weapon of mass destruction if: "The term “destructive device” shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684 (2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10; or any other device which the Attorney General finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, is an antique, or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting, recreational or cultural purposes."

So, assuming the Attorney General isn't stretching the definition, a cap gun would probably not be classified as a weapon of mass destruction.

I am not in favor of bombs nor of mines, but I do wish the definition of same was more specific.

Last edited by rbroome; 11-07-2010 at 09:28 PM.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:37 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017