Washoe County is seeking to ban Tannerite-type binary agent explosive targets except on licensed ranges with advance permission from the fire department. The change would be made by adding a section to the fire code. County officials have been talking about banning exploding targets since at least 2013. Any provisions prohibiting possession have been struck from the discussion, due to fierce opposition in earlier hearings. In Colorado, the US Forest Service has banned their use.
What is Tannerite (exploding target)?
Tannerite is the most popular brand of explosive target, consisting of ammonium nitrate (an oxidizer) which when mixed, allows the aluminum powder fuel to burn, generally producing an explosion. Generic explosive targets are also available. It is used The combination is stable, requiring a high velocity impact to detonate the compound, generally a rifle shot.
The two components do not constitute an explosive until mixed and can be transported in their individual states. Transporting the mixed compound is illegal.
Will Tannerite® Brand Binary Rifle Targets Cause a Fire?
No. Tannerite® binary rifle targets, when mixed and used correctly per instructions, will not cause a fire. The original Tannerite®brand binary exploding target was specifically designed from conception to be non-incendiary. This means the product was created using materials of the highest quality and properly formulated to ensure that it will not cause a fire.
When a bullet hits Tannerite® with a high velocity (2000 ft./sec. minimum), it causes a chemical reaction which results in a large water vapor cloud along with a loud report which is used as a shot indicator. Please note, however, that there are many knock-off products that can start fires due to an improper formulation and low quality raw materials. Even though Tannerite® brand targets will not start fires, all brands of exploding targets are banned during special fire orders. Please obey these restrictions.
In earlier hearings, fire department officials made vague statements, similar to those of anti-gunners, that Tannerite and binary explosives didn't belong in the hands of the average citizen. Fire department officials did not make themselves available for comment, and when cornered, could not give specifics on cases of 'misuse'.
The Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District has not produced any documentation of 'misuse' or any conclusive evidence that such exploding targets are unusually dangerous.
Like virtually any material, object, or substance, Tannerite has been misused. One man used it as a bomb when he packed a stove with it and killed eight. Others have been killed or seriously injured shooting explosive targets. Of course, firearms have been used in murders, accidents, and ignoring safety protocol has lead to many deaths and injuries by the weapons themselves. The same goes for cars, knives, electricity, matches, lighters, propane—you name it.
The deaths and injuries associated with exploding targets and firearms are a result of deliberate criminal acts or total ignorance of common sense when it comes to safety. Common sense and morality cannot be legislated. Personal responsibility is still the number one factor when it comes to shooting.
Tannerite has been used as an explosive to demolish barns, blow up cars, and kill feral hogs. From watching the videos, one who is not familiar with this substance or shooting sports could come to the conclusion that it is dangerous. While explosive targets are dangerous, as pointed out above, they are not especially more dangerous than other dangerous items. With care and responsibility, exploding targets can be used to great effect and fun.
This presents an interesting legal question. Does Washoe County have the authority to ban exploding firearm targets?
State preemption laws, strengthened by SB 175 and SB 240, give only the state legislature the authority to regulate “the transfer, sale, purchase, possession, carrying, ownership, transportation, storage, registration and licensing of firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition” and “and the ability to define such terms is within the exclusive domain of the Legislature, and any other law, regulation, rule or ordinance to the contrary is null and void.” However, local authorities do have the authority to regulate “the unsafe discharge of firearms.” (Emphasis mine).
Naturally, there is a conflict here. The first question breaks down into two more. 1. Are firearm targets considered firearm accessories? 2. Does evidence support that shooting exploding targets constitutes unsafe discharge of a firearm? For question number two, we would hope that the fire department could cite examples in Washoe County, or at least Nevada, where exploding targets resulted in death, serious injury, fire, or damage to private property.
Shooting things in the desert and leaving the mess behind gives all of us a bad name. Posting videos to YouTube showing stuff exploding also doesn’t help, but the negativity of those videos lays in the flawed interpretation of the viewer who is uneducated regarding firearms. Responsibility is the key. Clean up your mess and be safe. Lastly, contact your public officials and elected representatives and tell them what you think. If you live in Washoe County, it’s time to speak up and protect your rights. As some have pointed out, today they come for exploding targets, tomorrow they come for shooting on public land.