There has been a grotesque dumbing down, recently, of the definition of “weapon of mass destruction.” Once reserved for chemical, nuclear and biological weapons capable of killing millions, it has been revised, in the years starting with the passing of the USA PATRIOT ACT in late 2001, to include just about any and all weapons used against an American citizen. To wit:
TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113B > § 2332a
(2) the term “weapon of mass destruction” means—
(A) any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title;
(B) any weapon that is designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors;
(C) any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector (as those terms are defined in section 178 of this title); or
(D) any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life; …
TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 44 > § 921
(4) The term “destructive device” means—
(A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—
(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,
(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,
(v) mine, or
(vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;
(B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and
(C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.
The “destructive device” language is the product of legislation since 2001.
Whatever else one might think of them — and personally, I think they should rot in jail for the rest of their lives — the penis bomber and the Ft. Hood shooter have both been charged with the use of “weapons of mass destruction.” This is ridiculous, and has the potential to leave us naked, legally, if and when, g*d forbid, someone actually uses, or tries to use, a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon against the United States and its citizens. Let alone, the fact that the “destructive devices” described in Section 921 are commonly used by U.S. military and police forces, and it would be quite easy to find the legal tables turned on us. Note, for instance, that Section 921(a)(iv) simply descibes a common type of explosive bullet.
This continued insistence on rhetoric over common sense — especially as it continues to be codified in our laws — has more potential to seriously threaten our society than all the Al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia.