Things I Don’t Get

I get charging the Boston Bomber with using a weapon of mass destruction.

What I don’t get is why a gun used to slaughter and wound far more people on multiple occasions is not a weapon of mass destruction too.

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  • Justin N.

    Because you have a “right” to bear arms. (note: this is sarcasm).

  • Justin N.

    Interestingly, I have a Right (capital) to “bare” arms more than a right (lower case) to “bear” arms. That’s interesting… ;-)

  • bob

    Pressure cookers ain’t in the constitution. You’re right, what a weird distinction.

  • Rosemarie


    A pressure cooker bomb is not a WMD. That term properly refers to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The bombs used at the Boston Marathon were none of those things; not even in the same league. The Obama administration is misapplying the term, apparently because they’re skittish about charging the bomber with terrorism. Possibly out of fear of accusations of “Islamophobia” or something (“You’re just calling him a terrorist because he’s a Muslim! You’re anti-Muslim!”).

    But they have to pin something on Tsarnaev, so WMD it is. A shrewd lawyer might attempt to get him acquitted on a technicality by arguing that pressure cooker bombs don’t fit the description of a WMD.

    • Darrell

      It isn’t some odd conspiracy to comfort Muslims or escape charges of Islamophobia. Under federal law explosives used as weapons are defined as weapons of mass destruction. This is part-and-parcel of “terrorist related” charges that are used by the federal government to move jurisdiction out of state courts into federal courts. Tsarnaev is being charged as a terrorist by this very act.

      Additional charges (does anyone really believe this will be the only charge?) will be brought — many of them, undoubtedly additional terrorism related charges. Prosecutors routinely add additional charges as they determine what they believe that they can actually win in a court of law and initial charges are usually intended as ones that they use to set jurisdiction, bail, etc.

      • Rosemarie


        See my post below; it doesn’t refer to any just explosives. The term “weapons of mass destruction” has long been applied to nuclear weapons and also chemical and biological ones. Weapons that release something that continues to kill long after the explosion. Those pressure cooker bombs didn’t do that.

        • Darrell

          I recognize that in international discourse (and perhaps in international law) and explosive is not typically defined as a WMD. My point was that under federal law an explosive device used in a crime with an intent to injure or kill is actually defined as a WMD. The charge isn’t sophistry to dupe Muslims — it’s just the actual definition in the federal statutes.

          This is similar in nature to how a professional boxer when just using their fists to attack someone or your kicking someone who has fallen on the ground can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon under state statutes — even though in colloquial use, hands and feet are not normally described as deadly weapons.

          • Rosemarie


            Obama doesn’t want to dupe Muslims, he wants to avoid offending them. Had the bombers turned out to be anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage Republican Tea Partiers, the president would not have had the slightest qualms about calling them terrorists.

  • ivan_the_mad

    In a narrower, legal sense, WMDs are defined in such a manner under USC that would exclude firearms. But I grant your point in a broader sense; firearms are used in mass shootings, why the distinction between that and a pressure cooker bomb regarding mass injury and death? At a moral level, I certainly can’t see one.

  • Dave

    I am wondering when the movement to bail nails and pressure cookers is going to gain momentum.

    • Christina

      They won’t ban those, they’ll just ban the plastic on the lids that protects your hands – and only allow you to carry 7 nails at a time. You’ll still have the _right_ to own a pressure cooker and nails.

  • MarylandBill

    No offense, but all this is silliness and shows the basic problems with the way our legal system has gone. If murdering 4 people and injuring and maiming dozens of others is not enough then adding “other” crimes to the list isn’t going to do anything other than highlight the deficiencies of our legal system. The penalty should be based on the intent and the effect, not on the method used.

  • Ryan

    Appropriateness of the term “Weapon of Mass Destruction” in either case aside, it seems a bit disingenuous to obfuscate the distinction between a weapon that necessarily causes indiscriminate destruction to all nearby with no user-interaction beyond the initial setup, and a weapon that requires the user to specifically and personally target each individual he intends to harm.

    • KM

      I respectfully disagree. The term “Assault Weapons” for certain guns comes from the military and these weapons are arguably weapons of mass destruction.

      The “militaries of the world developed [assault rifles around the Vietnam War era] when they realized that most soldiers do not, when they’re engaged in combat … take accurate aim, do not fire at long distances, but rather just spray bullets in the general direction of the enemy at short to medium range…[S]oldiers are not marksmen, and they tend to just fire in bursts at ambiguous targets and, in fact, most battlefield injuries are the result of just being where the bullet is and not someone actually aiming at you.” – Tom Diaz at

      So it can be argued that these guns cause indiscriminate destruction to all nearby, and that these weapons don’t require the user to target each individual he intends to harm. Semi-automatic rifles for the civilian market are derived from the automatic military versions. Just shoot and fire off bullets as fast as you can pull the trigger thereby causing maximum carnage.

      • KM

        Let me add, as one example, that the Sandy Hook shooter fired off 152 bullets in 5 minutes, according to the police report. That’s 1 bullet every 2 seconds for 5 minutes. Doctors say that the victims of that assault didn’t have a chance of survival. As horrific and evil as the Boston bombing was, most people survived although many lost limbs and the actual death count was much lower.

        So I think Mark’s question as to why a bomb is called a WMD but guns are not is a good and timely one.

        • Arkanabar

          The short answer is because a bomb blast will hurt everyone in range, whereas a rifle, even if select-fire, can be used to take down an aggressor without injuring those whom he menaces, given sufficient skill.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    *Preliminary disclaimer stating that I in no way support GWB’s war in Iraq*

    If a pressure cooker bomb is considered a WMD, how can we criticize Bush for attacking Iraq on the basis of their possession of WMD’s? Surely all the roadside bombs in Iraq fit at least the same descriptions applied here.

    I think the WMD assignment here is weird, and might backfire terribly.

  • Ken Crawford

    I’m amazed that no one here sees the obvious answer (at least it seems obvious to me). A bomb can ONLY be used as a indiscriminate, mass destruction, weapon. If our military only consisted of nuclear weapons, we would only be capable of mass destruction. With guns, we’re capable of targeted, single person actions. So while some guns are capable of mass destruction, that same gun could fire a single round, so it is not inherently a weapon of mass destruction.

    Why this is obvious to me is that in our various political/military actions, there are “regular bombs”, which we don’t mind our enemies having, at least some degree, and then there are nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, that have a much larger strike zone than a conventional bomb, hence, weapons of mass destruction.

    • Ken Crawford

      Looks like I didn’t read far enough into the comments… I’m not the only one who sees this definitional difference.

      I also agree with those who are saying that, the bomb these terrorists used were NOT weapons of mass destruction, and I’m a bit concerned this is a more minor instance of the desire to treat them as military combatants, i.e., trumping up charges and ignoring the definitions in our laws or twisting them to a degree to be effectively ignoring them. What’s wrong with charging them with 3 counts of 1st degree murder and 180 counts (or whatever the injury count was) of attempted murder?

      • Andy, Bad Person

        This. The charges are more of a way to make a statement rather than charge someone under the facts.

    • KM

      Ken, I respectfully disagree with some of your points. Bombs can be used to target specific individuals as the Unabomber did. And as I mention further above in a different comment, assault rifles were developed by the military to allow soldiers to shoot indiscriminately and quickly at ambiguous targets. So it can be argued that both bombs and certain guns can be WMD’s and both can be used to specifically target individuals. The amount of carnage each can cause can vary depending on circumstances.

      I do agree with your other points about the trumping up of charges and so on.

      • Ken Crawford

        KM, I agree for a very small bomb and it’s a fair point.

        The more I think about it, I think this furthers the idea that a WMD has to be a big bomb, and that’s why the traditional line is at a nuclear weapon. With that sort of a definition/magnitude, no gun would ever qualify.

        The bomb these guys used is somewhere in the middle where it was big enough I don’t think one could argue it could be used in a targeted fashion, but I hesitate to call it a “true” WMD.

        • KM

          Good points. Maybe the word “Mass” in WMD needs to be defined in some way, as in a certain number like 1,000+? 100+? Not sure what the number defining “mass destruction” would be. And does it only mean deaths, or does it include maimings?

        • Kenneth

          The concept that WMD can only include nuclear, biological or chemical weapons is an artificial one that derives from international treaty obligations. These clowns did not have the standing or autonomy of a nation state, and so WMD can be defined any way we like for domestic purposes. I would say any device that is deployed with the intent and capacity to cause multiple casualties with one triggering event is fair game for WMD definition. Adding nails or other objects to enhance shrapnel effect certainly reveals an intent for mass casualties, as did the target selection and timing. The fact that the explosive yield might come in below some other comparison means nothing. They clearly sought to maximize the death and suffering to the greatest degree possible within their financial and operational means.

  • Kenneth

    “What I don’t get is why a gun used to slaughter and wound far more people on multiple occasions is not a weapon of mass destruction too……”

    Simple. There was never a civilian explosive industry sufficient to fund an industry lobbying group with the juice of the NRA. If there had been, we’d have over the counter sales of pre-assembled pressure cooker bombs, and Congress would avoid mandating even basic criminal background checks, because, you know, once you do that, you’ll have a “registry” the government would know who owns those bombs…..

    • Seriously, this is dumb

      This is the dumbest comment I’ve ever read.

  • Rosemarie


    Re defining a WMD:

    I was always under the impression that it causes “mass destruction,” not merely by exploding and maiming or killing everything but by releasing something into the environment that continues to injure and kill long after the shock wave dissipates. Radiation, toxic chemicals, or disease would all cause massive destruction beyond even the reach of the explosion itself. That’s what “weapons of mass destruction” means.

    Until someone shows me that the pressure cooker bombs contained more than just nails and ball-bearings and the like, and have spread something dangerous into the Boston atmosphere that is continuing to kill, I refuse to consider them WMDs.