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Space Toys United States

Rocket Hobbyists Get Blown Away by Regulations 752

dogfart writes "Amateur rocket hobbyists are bearing the brunt of Federal anti-terror efforts. Cumbersome regulations (which include extensive background checks) are pushing many to abandon the hobby. Even clubs associated with colleges (such as Kettering) have ended up folding under the pressure. Quoting the article: '"If we're in an environment where the government says you've got to get fingerprinted and background checked, and spend three to four months to do it, (adults are) not going to participate in my hobby," said Mark Bundick, president of the National Association of Rocketry. "We need more kids. It helps them learn technology. It's the technological base here in the country that we need to protect, and this hobby is a good introduction for kids that are interested in technology. If I lose those adults, then I will not be able to train those kids."'" We wrote about these regulations before, and followed it up with a Slashback.
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Rocket Hobbyists Get Blown Away by Regulations

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  • VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dnahelix ( 598670 ) <> on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:36PM (#9529951)
    The only way we are going to change things is to VOTE and get those ass-heads out of office!
  • by dirvish ( 574948 ) <dirvish@fo u n d n e> on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:38PM (#9529970) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, when have you ever heard of an amateur rocket being used for terrorism?

    Maybe we should outlaw fertilizer and diesel fuel, since they have actually been used for terrorist acts.
  • by will.murnane ( 791409 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:41PM (#9530022)
    Although I admit that this is a stupid regulation and fairly dictatorial, it shouldn't be that big a deal. If people are interested in rocketry, they can go through the licensing stuff and then go for it. Even if model rockets weren't used on 9/11, that doesn't mean they can't be used for similar purposes. They're basically explosives. Regulations on explosives are generally good things.
  • My 2 cents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Osgyth ( 790644 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:43PM (#9530060) Homepage
    Why is the gov't bothering to regulate a hobby the countless people have participated it, that unless my memory fails me, has never posed a threat to this so called "national security" myth. Their time and our money could be better spent in other ways. (I've got no clue where, which is why I'm not running for office.) Model rocketry has been one of my favorite hobbies for years, and i have never heard of it being misused in a way that warrants attraction from the federal government.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:44PM (#9530071) Homepage
    Or they could use slingshots to fire firebombs through building windows. Or they could use bottles of alcohol to molotov coctail police cars and police stations. Or that could burn a fire in a building's air conditioning room without leaving ventilation so that it produces carbon monoxide.

    So, hurry up, government: Outlaw slingshots, alcohol, and fire.
  • by irokitt ( 663593 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .ruai-setirdnamihcra.> on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:49PM (#9530156)
    Believe it or not, I've seen people do precisely that all the time. People have to really hunt to find launch sites around here (San Diego), and it's gotten worse since the fires (which is completely understandable). So every once in a while, you see somebody shoot a rocket up and then leave. They don't even collect the things

    What I've always done is launch my rockets out in the desert (BLM property, which is state-owned and open to everyone for anything). I have a handy dry-lake launch site where there isn't anything flammable, or any people either for that matter.
  • by prgrmr ( 568806 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:52PM (#9530194) Journal
    The chances of an unguided, sub-sonic rocket taking out an airplane is very small []

    While I can agree that some regulation of large quantities of solid propellant is a prudent thing, the thresholds in the current regs [] are too extreme, I think. Also, the $25 fee for a limited use permit is an unnecessary and excessive tax for an activity that has miminal impact on public assets.
  • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:54PM (#9530221) Journal
    Yeah, when have you ever heard of an amateur rocket being used for terrorism?

    From the linked article:
    "There is no consistency as to what is acceptable in one region for the ATF that won't be acceptable somewhere else," said Wickman. "The ATF people seem, as a rule, to feel this whole idea of hobby rocketry being regulated by the (government is) a mistake and a waste of time. There's a disconnect between the ATF in Washington and the regional field offices."

    What's worse, even though not much has changed about the regulations, they are subject to arbitrary interpretation in the field, said Bundick, of the National Association of Rocketry. "It's a never-ending treadmill to try to pacify the local inspector."

    The Justice Department's Nowacki didn't respond to questions about the ATF's perceived inconsistency.

    What you model terrorists don't seem to understand is that it doesn't matter that model rockets can't be used as weapons of terror.

    What's important isn't controlling model rockets, per se; what's important is getting the American public used to a never-ending "war against terror", keeping them keyed-up, ever fearful and ever compliant.

    What's important is getting the public resigned to always asking permission from the government, always being afraid that they're at risk of arrest, even for hobbies the government knows full well pose no realistic risk of harm.

    And ultimately, what's important is making the people of this nation realize who is boss -- the government and its bureaucrats and its corporate owners --, and who is the servant -- the common taxpayer.

    Once you realize that your hobbies "need" to be regulated to "fight terror", you'll docilely let the FBI knock on your door on behalf of the RIAA's searches, and you'll agree to submit your open source code to government inspection to make sure it doesn't "INDUCE" violation of copyright [].

    Once the formerly free American sheeple resign themselves to arbitrary governmental intrusions into their lives in order to further some ill-defined and ever elusive "war against terror", they'll stop squawking about
    Or as our beloved Reichsminister Ashcroft explained, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty ... your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and ... give ammunition to America's enemies."
  • by Invalid Character ( 788952 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:58PM (#9530282) Journal
    With all this worry over terrorism and the concern over the resourses taht will be available to terrorists, people seem to forget that almost anything can be used as a "weapon".
    Also why even bother making these regulations when even high schoolers can make homemade rockets using gunpowder from fireworks? Hell, you can even make your own gunpowder and solid fuel from readily and unregulated sources.
    Terrorists are NOT stupid and if anyone is going to find a way to cause mayhem, they sure will. Beside the guys who hijacked the airplanes on 9/11 were i university and had a pretty good education.
    All these new regulations will do is stiffle amature rocketry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:59PM (#9530288)
    Gee who you gonna vote for? Republicans or Democrats? Our two party system is too vulnerable to corruption. Seriously does it really matter which party is in government. It amusing to watch all our rights die the death of a thousand cuts. Washington would roll in his grave if he saw what a parody this country has become of the one he helped create. The way things are going, I'm thinking of moving to Canada, the new Land of the Free.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @01:59PM (#9530289)
    It's the technological base here in the country that we need to protect, and this hobby is a good introduction for kids that are interested in technology.

    You, I, and the rocketry guy quoted might believe this, but protecting the technological base in this country is not a priority for the American powers-that-be.

    More important is keeping labor cheap and the country tied down under a web of Homeland Security minutiae, which will keep the populace cowed and their own grip on power secure.

    By contrast the Indian government, which actually seems to have their own national interest in mind, will be happy to run the miniscule "security" risk and let Indian kids play with model rockets-- the better technologically educated they are, the more advanced the tech jobs they can attract from willing American corporations.

    You can glean a government's whole philosophy from little issues like this.

  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:01PM (#9530332)
    next thing you know, they'll be trying to nickle and dime away our right to bear arms on the grounds that people don't kill people, guns do ....

    .... oops, uh, nevermind.
  • by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:02PM (#9530337)
    "It's just motors with greater than .9 lbs of fuel. That's Huge and could very well be used as a weapon"

    It's people with that attitude that are causing the problem with the ATF. If you've ever been to a launch you'd know the ability to aim these things at a target is nonexistant. They basically go up, but you couldn't deliberately hit something if you tried without a miracle. The fuel itself is not actually explosive - outside the motor tube it burns really slow. You could attach some other explosive, but you still couldn't deliver it accurately and that would be a different substance so no need to regulate the fuel.

    Rocket fuel is no more dangerous than gasoline which is available on every corner in America. Probably less dangerous, as it's not a liquid.

  • by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:05PM (#9530385) Homepage Journal
    While I can understand your anger, it still puzzles me as to where you were when other ass-heads started fingerprinting other people. This stuff didn't get invented under the Bush administration, but has been around for decades. I've been fingerprinted twice by the FBI under two prior administrations, and neither was related to rocketry.

    I have no problems with people protesting bad laws and corrupt administrations. But where the fsck were you during the Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, and Ford years? This selective protesting reeks of hypocracy.
  • by to_kallon ( 778547 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:06PM (#9530403)
    "The best way to prevent terrorist acts, therefore, is to strip those puppies away as quickly and efficiantly as possible." yes, maybe so, but isn't the point of terror to make people change by scaring them? and if we start losing rights from one attack, horrific as it may have been, do we really think they, terrorists, are going to be discouraged by their success?
  • You may laugh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:09PM (#9530438) Journal
    but I once heard of the Brits arresting an Irishman for carrying a can of oil. Apparently it 'could have been used to clean guns.'
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:10PM (#9530452) Homepage Journal
    As a bit of political gamesmanship, it's just brilliant. Declare your "bipartisanship", then nominate the most extreme candidates you can think of. When the other side objects, accuse them of being partisan.

    For extra flavor, keep the country in a state of continual national emergency, then accuse the other side of treason when they object to anything you do.

    Seriously, I despise the game, but, they've done an exceptional job of slapping their opponents both ways. I don't hold the Democrats in any higher regard; if they refrain from this behavior it's because they're not as good at it, not because of some higher moral ground they stand on.

    This is coming from a registered Democrat. I'm used to voting for the lesser of two evils.
  • by DRWHOISME ( 696739 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:11PM (#9530465)
    Go to the gunshop and you can buy kegs of gunpowder,even through the mail. The NRA would put Bush out of business if he cracked down on that . So the regs are useless if your going to disallow one and allow the other.

    An idea for you high powered rocket guys is to go with a method of fueling rockets with gunpowder.
    I wonder what the gov would do then ?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:14PM (#9530493)
    Explosives aren't the only kind of payload that can be deployed with a rocket.
  • Re:Gun Control (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DnsZero ( 78994 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:14PM (#9530502)
    Well thats different.

    [fantasy type="world" class="political:lobbiest"]

    The gun regulations have fixed all kinds of problems. Now we don't criminals running around using firearms to commit crimes. Gun deaths have dropped to an all time low and our vision of Utopia on Earth will come about shortly.

  • by nick13245 ( 681899 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:20PM (#9530582)
    Then why don't the outlaw private aircraft? I believe they could deliver a much larger payload...
  • by kpansky ( 577361 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:23PM (#9530638)
    Of course this same argument can be made for anything. I mean making a basic gun is easy -- long tube, black powder, and a projectile. Sure, it'll be inaccurate and the range will be crap, but the same thinking goes. Ultimately nothing can be totally prevented, but it just putting up barriers.

    As far as rocketry goes, if these type of regulations were put on other types of explosives (they are) there would be no fuss. It is just because it impacts something near and dear to our hearts that it seems so intolerable.

    Think of the complaints people made for sport shooting and hunting when gun restrictions (something most slashdotters seem to embrace) were enacted. Same basic premise, completely different reaction from the slashdot crowd.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:24PM (#9530646)
    I disagree. With only 2 parties Corporations can better focus their lobbying dollars. Plus they only have two parties they need to donate campaign funds to in order to control them. Politicians in the US only represent the needs of their people as long it doesn't interfere with the ambitions of their corporate masters.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:31PM (#9530740)
    I agree with your post, but where was the left's outrage on violations of the 10th amendment 30 years ago, (hell, 60 years ago)? It was "progressive" congressmen and pliant Supreme Court justices who changed the interpretation of the Commerce Clause to mean "anything Congress wants to do, Congress can do". I don't like the status quo either, but let's all keep in mind that it was politicians enamored with redistribution and central planning who paved the way for the Federal government to become the leviathan that it is today.
  • by dangermouse ( 2242 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:32PM (#9530747) Homepage
    What's important isn't controlling model rockets, per se; what's important is getting the American public used to a never-ending "war against terror", keeping them keyed-up, ever fearful and ever compliant.

    Well, you're half right. What's important isn't controlling model rockets. It's controlling explosives, which happen to be used in model rockets. The ATF didn't decide to clamp down on the hobby of model rocketry to pacify the citizerny-- that's an idiotic scenario even for the average conspiracy theorist. Model rocket enthusiasts are catching a side-effect of new explosives regulation because they use explosives in their hobby.

    It sounds like the ATF may have been overzealous in creating those new regulations, and that those regulations may have had unintended (or disregarded) side effects, but you're going way out of your way to justify an assumption of maliciousness here.

  • Re:Really? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by shepd ( 155729 ) <> on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:33PM (#9530757) Homepage Journal
    Yeah you could do that. However, that fact doesn't make a model rocket any safer.
  • by darth_zeth ( 155639 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:39PM (#9530833) Homepage
    or do geeks only care that they can frag aliens online?

    i swear, half the kids in my dorm who would be bragging about headshots in CS looked damn near terrified when i asked them if they wanted to go to the range to shoot *gasp* REAL guns.

    Was that just a characteristic of my dorm, or the geek cultrue as a whole?
  • by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:40PM (#9530848)
    While I rattle on about how stupid we've become, why not just sedate all plane passengers with enough to keep them out cold for the duration of the flight? you fall asleep in the terminal and wake up at your destination?

    Actually, this would be great for the airlines. They could fit alot more people on the plane that way! I remember a lot of road trips were like this too. I'd go to sleep about 10 mins. after traveling on interstate then just wake up 4 hours later at where ever we were going. Traveling is so much faster that way.
  • by driftingwalrus ( 203255 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:41PM (#9530862) Homepage
    Couple problems there. For one, these rockets go straight *up*. Meaning anything they disperse over an area, the person launching it gets hit with as well. Secondly, a proper aerosol of something like anthrax is *extremely* hard to build, not considering the general difficulty of growing anthrax anyway.

    The most fundamental, substantial reason is this: It's too complicated. Terrorists do not use complex methods, because they don't have to. They can achieve very large impacts, with very small attacks. It's not about the amount of damage, it's about the ability to demonstrate that it can't be *prevented*. Once you do that, people will be scared out of their wits because they never do know when something is going to happen. The US government needs to get rid of this beleif that terrorists are going to behave like foreign governments. These aren't governments, they're guerillas. If one looks at the Vietnam war, a classic example of what guerilla warfare can accomplish, one finds constant use of the most rudimentary weapons and jury-rigged equipment. The simple reason is that they didn't need anything much fancier. The US can afford to hire a team of engineers to develop a missile, Al Qaeda can't.

  • by k31bang ( 672440 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:48PM (#9530941) Homepage
    First they came for the big ass rockets and I did not speak out because I don't use them Then they came for the bla bla bla, you know the rest.
  • by l810c ( 551591 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @02:53PM (#9530995)
    These things are not going to kill a lot of people, but given their size and range there are numerous ways they could be used to terrorize people and allow the attackers to quickly get away.

    Fire one of these from a mile away over a packed stadium or large crowd and have it explode with a cloud of chemical agent.

    You wouldn't even need a chemical, flour would probably cause such a panic that several people would die in the ensuing stampede.

    I live in the flight pattern of Atlanta's aiport. If I fired one of these at a plane(even if I didn't hit it), it would shut down the whole airport and maybe the entire US.

  • by ChuckleBug ( 5201 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:05PM (#9531126) Journal
    If you've ever been to a launch you'd know the ability to aim these things at a target is nonexistant. They basically go up, but you couldn't deliberately hit something if you tried without a miracle.

    Just to play devil's advocate here - I don't think this matters. A terrorist's goal could just be indiscriminate mayhem, so it wouldn't matter where it ended up. Also, I don't think you're quite right. If you put some effort into it, you could hit a large target, like a building. It's also possible for someone to design some sort of guidance system. Of course, I don't see terrorists doing this - it's a big production and there are much easier ways of being destructive.

    I'm a rocket enthusiast myself, and I don't like seeing unwarranted restrictions on the hobby, but I don't have a problem with a certain amount of regulation, especially for the big ones. Rockets are ballistic projectiles, and can be damned dangerous, even if they aren't explosive. Even a small rocket, which can be simply demonstrated: Set up a rocket with a C or D motor, stand with your chin resting atop the launch rod, and push the button. :) However, making it into a Homeland Security (I hate that term) issue is over the top.
  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:07PM (#9531148)
    Stop all the silly suggestions as if such a rocket will be used to "shoot down a plane".

    Is it really so hard to image that using "high-powered rockets, which can be 30 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds -- with some flying more than 60 miles or reaching speeds over 1,000 miles per hour" can be used as a weapon?

    Someone rolls up 15 miles outside of DC, fires a salvo of these rockets with 10 lb. of explosive on each and disappears before the first one even hits?

    Sure, they won't do much damage but that is the point of terrorism. Terrorism can't win a war by itself, it requires the other party to lose the will to fight.

    It amazes me that people think that building a rocket weighing "hundreds of pounds" or flying over 60 miles is "a hobby.

    The really interesting thing is that over 1/2 of the replies to this topic are simply knee jerk anti-Bush rants.

    If you can't see that a 30 ft rocket that can fly over 60 miles needs to have some type of regulation then I can't help you.
  • by bizard ( 691544 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:08PM (#9531167)
    I would imagine that many of the people you are ranting at weren't alive in the Ford and Carter years, were a tad to young to vote in the Reagan and Bush years, and hadn't yet had their own rights trampled upon in the Clinton years.

    Why is it hypocrytical to wake up and want to affect political change? Selective protesting is exactly what people should do...focus all of their effort on something that matters to them rather than generally complaining about all injustices.
  • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:10PM (#9531198) Homepage
    Why the government even tries is beyond me. Amateur rocketry, which is safe, fun, educational and produces the rocket scientists of tommorow is now regulated.

    but I can still stop by my local roadside fireworks/adult bookstore/stuckey's and buy as much stuff that goes boom, crackle and sizzle for two for the price of one... all I have to do is join the Fireworks PAC...

    Governement idiots.
  • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:19PM (#9531319)
    I don't know the specifics of the rockets fired into Israel, but I suspect the damage done (even psychological) is greater when the same effort and material is put into simplier devices.

    A rocket is pretty much a controlled bomb. Every joule spent on proplusion is a joule not spent on explosive. An amateur might be able to cobble together a rocket which would fly vaguely where the builder pointed it over a distance of a maybe a few miles, but the "warhead" would likely be only a few pounds. (plus the kinetic energy of the rocket.) If you took the same rocket fuel, and used it to make a big-ass truck bomb, you'd gain several magnitudes of precision and lethality.

    Rockets are good for putting a small amount of explosive in a place you can't easily access. Since we're not going to outlaw trucks, fertilizer, and diesel fuel any time soon, the best way to "terrorize" the people remains.

    Ultimately I'd much prefer the "evil doers" put their energy into exotic ideas like homemade rockets rather than simple ones like truck bombs and the classic "cheap-assault-rifle-and-a-crowd". The number of victims would be lower.

    Someone could make a weapon out of rocketry supplies, but anyone with the skills to build a halfway decent rocket could build a pretty impressive bomb a lot easier.

  • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:38PM (#9531533)
    The problem is scale. In a lot of places in the US, you can buy small fireworks, but I can't go to a commerical supplier and pick up professional mortars and shells without some sort of license.

    I've got no problem with there being limitations of people's ability to build, say, something which uses propellant measured in pounds (or tons). When it's clear the rocket poses a clear threat if accidents occur or it is intentionally misused. But people should still be able to build smaller things without massive hurdles.

    I don't want to get much into guns because it is a bit of a charged subject. The issue is where do we set limits between the right to bear a squirt-pistol and the right to bear crew-served artillery? Obviously there needs to be a ceiling somewhere, but quantifying it is hard.

    The question is where do you set the ceiling? And what are reasonable requirements for people who wish to exceed it? Model-rocketry is heading towards the squirt-pistol range of the scale...

  • by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:46PM (#9531624) Homepage
    It amazes me that people think that building a rocket weighing "hundreds of pounds" or flying over 60 miles is "a hobby.

    Does it amaze you that some people think pistol shooting, motorcycle racing, skydiving, rock climbing, etc. are hobbies, too?

    It would probably amaze you even more to hear that many people don't don't want to live in a perfectly safe but utterly boring world, nor do they appreciate being restricted by people who think they can make that world a reality.
  • Govt regs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bigredmed ( 699538 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:48PM (#9531638)
    Why aren't the anti govt red tape repulicans getting after this? First its the Internet over Powerlines that will screw up HF radio and now this. If you can't practice, you can't get good, and when show time comes, you won't be ready. If we ruin HF radio, then when the hurricane comes and HF is all that gets out of Miami, don't be knocking on my door whining about the lack of comm from the disaster zone as I won't be investing in HF. When we look at our engineering schools and see them half full of non-resident aliens on J-1 visas, and we wonder why little Timmy and little Johnny don't grow up to be engineers, we look back at the bubble wrapped world they grew up in and we see why. No challenges, no opportunities for growth, no chance to see something they think is really cool and start thinking about doing it for a living. These regs and the mindsets that set these regs need to be dealt with. If the govt really wants to deal with model rocketry, a better way to do it is to co-opt it. Think about how many military bases there are, add the Natl Guard, and the Coast Guard and there are a ton of people around this country that the govt could use to "host" or "sponsor" these groups. The "host" would be able to keep tabs on the members of the group and would be able to get the group surplus goodies to make cooler rockets. The kids would care less that the govt was in effect spying on them and the adults wouldn't have to go through the hassles of getting finger prints and security screens just to buy and Estes engine.
  • by kpansky ( 577361 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:49PM (#9531660)
    I agree that for most model rocketry restrictions like these are draconian and stupid. But from the article "Today, thousands of people fly model rockets that range in size from about 12 inches to more than 30 feet tall." Now. That covers quite a range there. A 30 foot tall rocket should almost certainly have some restrictions to it, no? Once you get to 2 feet it length you can start thinking of homemade RPGs. A complete stretch, but one illustrating a point that not all model rockets are squirt guns. A 1/100th model is pretty small, but a 1/10 model can be pretty fucking huge.
  • by Agripa ( 139780 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:55PM (#9531723)
    This is hardly surprising.

    The news and government leave out that the fourth 9/11 plane was stopped my the militia the second amendment applies to and that they would like to see disarmed.
  • What?!?!?!? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:58PM (#9531761)
    I really dont think it's because they think they will be used for terrorism, I think it's because they can be easily mistaken as a terrorist's weapon, and therefore should be outlawed.

    Sweet Jebus, what are you smoking?

    "This thing is not dangerous, but someone might think it's dangerous, so you're not allowed to have it"

    Yeah, great logic there.
  • by codegen ( 103601 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @03:59PM (#9531769) Journal
    It amazes me that people think that building a rocket weighing "hundreds of pounds" or flying over 60 miles is "a hobby.

    It amazes me that people think that writing your own operating system is "a hobby".

    What about mountain climbing? What about amateur astronomers that make [] their own 30 to 40" telscopes including computerized tracking systems [] accurate to less than 1/2 arc second? What about amateur robotics?

    Now it may be the case that there needs to be some type of regulations for serious hobbies, but there is such a thing as overkill.
  • by radish ( 98371 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:04PM (#9531823) Homepage
    I live in the flight pattern of Atlanta's aiport. If I fired one of these at a plane(even if I didn't hit it), it would shut down the whole airport and maybe the entire US.

    You could get the same effect by calling in a well timed and worded series of bomb threats. Which is a lot easier than messing around with rockets.

    Look, pretty much anything you can think of could be used by a terrorist. Poison the water supply, or some food factory, throw green dye into a river and call into the local tv news with a middle-east accent, let off a smoke grenade on the subway. If you want to cause chaos it's easy and always will be.
  • Amen! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isotope23 ( 210590 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:05PM (#9531842) Homepage Journal
    I hate the way the government has perverted the interstate commerce clause. To my mind that has been the biggest erosion of rights this country has ever had. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence should be able to understand the intent of the clause, "to regulate commerce between the states". Now it has become a catch-all for any federal law, and a judicial test is no longer required.

  • by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:23PM (#9532025) Homepage
    But I don't consider storing explosives and building a 30 foot rocket that can travel 60 miles to be the equivalent of "rock climbing" or "skydiving".

    High-power rocketry may have a higher level of hazard to bystanders, but it's probably less useful in terrorism than knowing how to shoot and drive fast. A stolen car can deliver a much bigger warhead much more accurately than a homemade rocket. The rocket builders are being singled out because they are a small enough group to regulate without causing an uproar, not because their rockets are especially useful to terrorists.

    Back to what I was trying to say in my previous post, making society absolutely safe and secure is impossible. Every increase in security and safety comes with an equal and opposite loss of convenience and freedom. Our elected leaders will never say anything about that, presidents and congresspeople don't get re-elected by telling the voters they can't be safe. So, the BATFE is under a lot of pressure from political leaders pushing this "myth of security" to do something about terrorism and this is apparently the best they could come up with.
  • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:55PM (#9532322)

    The propellent in rocketry is not well suited to explosives. Major truck bombs, like the one used in OKC, were ammonium nitrate and diesel. Technically that's a low power explosive too. Elsewhere in the thread someone was saying that a two foot rocket is starting to sound like an RPG, but they are forgetting that the lethality of an RPG is because they carry very exotic shaped charge high explosive and penetrators which turn into jets of plasma upon impact. Even assuming the rocket is easy to make, the warhead takes a lot more work.

    And finally, I totally agree with you about stealing explosives. Without sounding to much like the "when guns are illegal only criminals will have guns" crowd, putting restrictions of materials that an accomplished amateur chemist could make from common ingredients isn't going to stop a serious terrorist. Look at the problem with illegal drugs. Thousands and thousands of less-than-rocket-scientists manage to cook up crystal meth in dilapidated shacks and bathrooms all the time.

    Sure, a terrorist would prefer to buy off the shelf, but I don't think it's going to stop them if they can't. And, more to the point, they could always just knock over a quarry for some dynamite.

  • by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @04:58PM (#9532365) Homepage
    You argue that Israel was never at risk because their military was stronger than their neighbors' military.

    Would Israel still have been safe if their military was weaker than their neighbors'?

    You say that Israel used overwhelming force to end a conflict as quickly and decisively as possible... as if that's a bad thing.

    Would it have been better for Israel to commit no more than 80,000 troops, and limit their tech usage to the obosolete tech level of their opponents?

    Did you allow for the possibility that Israel has such a large army because their neighbors insist on massing whatever troops they have on Israel's borders, along with the best weapons technology they can muster?

    Did you allow for the possibility that the only hope Israel has of winning a war of agression is to apply overwhelming force immmediately? That perhaps that's why Israel maintains such a large and advanced military?

    That Egypt, Syria, et al were unwilling or unable to follow up with a counterattack is hardly an indictment of Israel. Rather, it indicates that Israel struck at the right moment, before the forces massing on its borders were in a position to achieve the victory they sought.

    The Geneva convention is opt-in, and applies only to signatories who abide by its rules. Like all other "international law", it is only worth the enforcement that underwrites it. In the case of the Geneva Convention, enforcement comes in the form of "tit for tat"--if you violate the rules, then your enemy is free to also violate the rules. In fact, the retaliation is not against the rules at all.

    According to the Geneva Convention, the first entity to use biological weapons is in violation. The second entity is in total compliance when it retaliates with biological weapons of its own.

    Before we discuss this further, though, it might be interesting to know which of the parties involved were signatories of the Geneva Convention at the time.

    As for the rest of "international law", it is essentially meaningless without enforcement. Israel was bound only by its treaties, and by the ability and willingness of other entities to police Israel (and its neighbors) effectively. Absent a higher power with legitimate authority to dictate policy to nation-states, and with enough force of arms and force of will to enforce that policy, whatever Israel has done may be "unfair" in your opinion, but it cannot be "illegal".

    There are many veterans who stand by John Kerry's Vietnam record and support his anti-war sentiments. But there are just as many veterans who repudiate his record and denounce his anti-war sentiments. It never occurred to me that all Israeli generals would think--then or now--that the 1967 war was a good idea. It also never occurred to me that if a general opposed the war, it must therefore have been a bad idea. What about all the generals who supported the war? Do their opinions not count?
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @05:17PM (#9532544)
    You have just posited becoming a manufacturer of solid fuel rocket engines/explosives and would be subject to all the laws pertaining thereto, or a criminal if you ignored them.

    They weren't so silly as to leave a loophole that would just allow us to take care of our own percieved needs.

    However, your post is a good example of why the law is pretty silly. It only really restricts legitimate use. Terrorists will simply ignore the law, as that is what terrorists do. They'll make their own or just steal what they want.

    None of these "anti-terrorist" laws restrict terrorists. They just keep your grandmother from being able to crochet while she's on a long flight.

  • by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @05:50PM (#9532799) Homepage Journal
    But from the article "Today, thousands of people fly model rockets that range in size from about 12 inches to more than 30 feet tall." Now. That covers quite a range there

    Exactly. You could have thousands of people flying 12 inch rockets, and one flying a 31 foot rocket, and that sentence would still be just as true. I'd like to see some more breakdown of that personally, purely because its such a vague yet emotionally charged claim.
  • by infonick ( 679715 ) * on Friday June 25, 2004 @05:53PM (#9532828) Homepage
    HUAC (House Un-American Activites Committy) was formed in 1937. It was created out of fear of communism, and accused thousands of innocent people of being radical communists. This in the end caused thousands of dollars in damage, not to mention the cost to run the committy, and the damage caused by people trying to stay out of their way (for example: literature and theater that seemed unamerican would not have been published or preformed).

    Fast forward to today

    Now, the US is scared of terrorists. The US now has tightened security on all fronts. Now, amateur rocket hobbyists are being targeted as terrorists because they have rockets. So this is how this is going to work: Thoughs who register will be under a microscope; thoughs who dont will be criminals; and terrorists will get off scott free.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @06:08PM (#9532946)
    And you'll have free license to use it as you wish. The workings of rockets and guns are fair similar.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2004 @09:49PM (#9534259)
    "Personally, I think that large asssault rifles/fully automatic weapons etc. should be banned, however the second amendment is very very clear on this matter. If such things are to be regulated, it should be done with a constitutional amendment."

    The National Firearms Act of 1934 regulates very closely the ability to get an "assault weapon" which is defined as the ability to fire shots continuously by depressing the trigger (i.e. a "machine gun"). In order to own one the ATF must conduct an extensive background check and approve you for it. The number of folks authorized for this is probably in the hundreds.

    TRUE assault weapons like the AK-47, the M-16, the Galil, the FAL, etc rifles capable of firing continuously in automatic mode (the M-16 fires a three round burst) are limited to ONLY those who've passed the ATF vetting process. No gun shop carries these or will sell them to the general public in any state.

    If you mean the "evil, black looking rifles" like the AR-15 and AK clones, those are SEMI-AUTOMATIC. One pull of the trigger will fire ONE bullet. They are functionally no different from the World War Two Garands (Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, etc) or even some hunting rifles from Browning, Ruger, etc. They're just equiped with black plastic stocks and painted black.

    As per the Clinton ban, production and importation of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds is prohibited. Some states like California go further and prevent individuals from buying existing "hi-cap" magazines.

    California bans these "assault weapons" which "look evil" but function just like rifles say sold by Ruger: yR iflesCA.html

    So you can buy say the Mini-14; since it doesn't "look evil" cause it has a walnut stock etc; but the AR-15 which functions exactly the same way is banned in California because it has a. a pistol grip, b. a flash hider.

    You can't legislate your way to safety, some lunatic somewhere is always ready to shoot it out or blow some one up (like McVeigh). Your friendly representative in the State Legislature or Congress however can point to another useless regulation whether it's outlawing "evil" guns that "look scary" or model rocketry and assure those voters they've done their bit to defend the nation.

    As oppossed say to properly funding the police force (and raising taxes).
  • by The AtomicPunk ( 450829 ) on Friday June 25, 2004 @11:36PM (#9534832)
    Gee, you begin to think that maybe prohibition isn't the solution to every problem we face?

    My primary hobby is machine gun collecting and shooting. Let me tell you the fun of throwing down $10-20k, finger printing, filling out forms, then waiting 3 months for a background check for the opportunity to pay a $200 tax so I can own one of a class of firearms by which *ZERO* people have been killed by civilians in the entire 70 year history of NFA firearms.

    Meanwhile, John Q. Gangbanger buys a MAC-10 on the corner for $50 and hoses down whoever.

    It makes you think maybe we should outlaw killing people.
  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @08:53AM (#9536450)
    I've been a model rocketeer for a long time, and my concern is this will push kids back to the homebrew engine days - with the resultant injuries and damage that was the reason G Harry Stine, George Estes and others created the hobby.

    Model rocketry is fun, and a good way to get kids away from computers into the sun. It develops an interst in science, engineering, and using computers to design and test. Competitions are good ways to meet people and make friends for life.

    It'l be a shame if teh government kills our hobby.

    JLC NAR 21573

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"