Explosives law raises background check concerns

| 4/22/2003

U.S. railroads and some trucking companies have stopped transporting commercial explosives because of confusion over whether a new federal law will require thousands more background checks for those who handle materials ranging from dynamite to fireworks, USA Today reports.

The Safe Explosives Act, which President Bush signed in November, takes effect May 24. The new law's supporters and officials at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say the law was designed to provide tighter control over explosives dealers and those seeking permits to buy smaller amounts of explosives.

ATF officials say the law will require background checks on about 20,000 people, about double the number that is now required.

Rail and trucking industry officials say the law could be read as requiring checks on thousands more people, including commercial rail workers and truckdrivers and virtually anyone else who helps to transport explosives.

Some trucking companies have joined the rail industry in refusing to move explosives because of concerns about whether their drivers could be prosecuted if they have not undergone a background check.

The law expands the list of people who may not possess explosives — which had included felons, the mentally ill, drug addicts and others — to include illegal immigrants, people dishonorably discharged from the military and those who have renounced their citizenship.