A man has been arrested after FBI and TSA officials said his luggage contained volatile gun parts, which caused his bag to explode Tuesday just before it was about to be loaded on a plane.
The unidentified 37-year-old man had 500 to 700 bullet primers in his luggage. Primers are considered the “spark plugs” of a bullet and ignites the gun powder, projecting it toward the intended target.
Officials believe when the baggage handler sat the bag down on the ground, it caused one of the bullet primers to rupture and explode, which ignited a chain reaction among the other tiny pieces of metal.
The worker was not seriously injured, but the words “explosion” and “airplane” can’t be used in the same sentence without the terror alert going up a few notches. Officials took one of the baggage handler’s shoes, which had a piece of metal lodged in it, and called in the bomb dogs.
Unfortunately, the article is fraught with as much misinformation as it is actual story, starting with the headline – no bullets exploded in this situation. In fact, I am not even sure if “exploding” bullets are produced any more. Furthermore, primers are not even part of a bullet… they are part of a cartridge, which is comprised of the aforementioned primer and bullet, the casing, and the gunpowder. But, these days, it is asking far too much to expect “authorized journalists” to actually do their homework and use the right terminology when talking about firearms.
Moving past the obvious errors and discrepancies, though, the story is fairly interesting… Given that primers are pressure-sensitive explosives, I can definitely see someone “setting a bag down on the ground” (read: “tossing the bag six feet away from the baggage car as you unload it”) and a primer getting squished in some way, detonating, and causing sympathetic detonations amongst its brethren – it would not be the mother of all booms, but it certainly would get your attention. Regardless, the passenger in question obviously did a pretty poor job packing the primers.
Which, of course, raises the question of why he had the primers in his luggage to begin with? My reflexive answer would be, “Why the hell not, assuming they were packed properly, which they were not in this case?” but the details of the story make me reign that in a little. To begin with, the flight he was transferring to was bound for Jamaica – a country with remarkably strict gun control (which has proven to be quite the failure). Moving on, the article claims, “it is illegal to pack primers or percussion caps” – looking at the TSA’s webpage on flying with firearms, I see where they specifically prohibit “percussion caps used with black-powder type firearms”, but no mention of smokeless-powder-cartridge primers is made. Is the Thousands of Sexual Assaulters’ prohibition against primers on aircraft kind of like double-secret probation – you only know about it if you already know about it?
And that brings us to the second-to-last line of the article – what the hell is a “license to carry ammunition”, and how does it pertain to “traveling in interstate commerce”? The only federal licenses I am aware of for ammunition pertain to the manufacture (for commercial purposes) and importation thereof… how does carrying a box full of primers constitute either? Or is this just a catch-all of, “You pissed off the Feds, so now we have to find something to stick you with”?
(Courtesy of Jalopnik.)
(In other news, Miguel beat me to it. *sigh*)