Explosives vs. Destructive Devices

I should note, based on some of the conversation going on in the previous post, that there’s a difference between a destructive device and an explosive.  True, that explosives are often a component of destructive devices, but merely being an explosive doesn’t qualify.  Also, not all things that make loud noises, or somewhat resemble the action of an explosive, are actually explosives.

Generally speaking, the possession of explosives by civilians is regulated at both the federal and state level, but is not terribly restrictive under most circumstances.  You can get a license, without too much difficulty, to manufacture and handle explosives.  Federal regulations contain distinctions between explosives, pyrotechnics, and blasting agents, but generally, aren’t regulated as destructive devices.

What makes something a destructive device, according to federal regulations is that it is “designed or redesigned for use as a weapon.”  Generally speaking, a pipe bomb is a destructive device that contains explosives.  What makes it a destructive device is that the “pipe” which surrounds the explosive is meant to fragment and send shrapnel in all directions, traveling along with the blast wave created by the explosive.  The government would argue that the only reason to possess such a device is as a weapon.  The court, in the case mentioned, found it unlikely such a device would be possessed for the purposes of self-defense, given the indiscriminate nature of a shrapnel driven by explosives.

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