- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

A small provision in the Homeland Security Act is having unintended consequences for boys and their toys.
Under the new law, anyone who wants to buy a motor rocket first must obtain a permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and is subject to a background check.
The law requires that all permit holders keep records that can be inspected by ATF agents.
Because these records are kept primarily in the permit holder's home, it subjects the home to ATF visits, said Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican, who is working to change the law.
"This educational hobby is being seriously threatened by the Homeland Security Act, which I do not believe was Congress' intent when drafting and passing this important legislation," Mr. Enzi said in a letter to fellow lawmakers Friday.
"The response by Americans to these new restrictions will disengage them from the hobby of rocketry, possibly destroying many small businesses and educational, hands-on rocketry programs," Mr. Enzi said in a separate letter to lawmakers.
The ATF has classified rocket propellant, which is shipped with the motor, as an explosive, thus burdening it with stricter government regulations.
In a letter to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, Mr. Enzi said he was concerned the ATF might have made a mistake in determining what would constitute an explosive. Congress defines an explosive as any chemical mixture or device whose primary or common purpose is to function by explosion.
"The ATF claims that the primary or common purpose of a rocket propellant (ammonium perchlorate composite propellant) is to explode. I am told that if the ATF's interpretation is true, a hobbyist's rocket motor would explode upon ignition. A rocket propellant is not designed or intended to explode," Mr. Enzi said.
In a Jan. 27 letter to Bradley Buckles, ATF director, Mr. Enzi asked for reclassification of rocket propellant.
Meanwhile, Mr. Enzi is drafting legislation in another attempt to close the loophole and exempt hobbyists from the provision, said his spokesman, Coy Knobel.
Rocketeers would be exempt from permit requirements just as are those who collect antique firearms that use black powder, which also is on the ATF explosives list.
"As an avid rocketeer myself, I can remember my first rocket launch standing in the middle of a field, hoping your creation would actually fly. The United States cannot afford to further diminish the hopes of young children, the dreams of future astronauts and the memories of generations through unintended regulation," Mr. Enzi said.
The restrictions on shipping and handling also require companies to fingerprint all employees and certify them with background checks. United Parcel Service has stopped shipping some model-rocket engines and Federal Express may follow suit. Some trucking and railroad firms reportedly have stopped shipping the motors.
Model-rocket hobbyists are lobbying Capitol Hill lawmakers for the exemption through faxes, e-mail messages and phone calls. They include Jay Apt, who has flown four space shuttle missions.
"It makes no more sense to restrict aerospace modeling than it would have to ban rental trucks after they were misused in Oklahoma and New York," Mr. Apt told Space.com.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide