BLAINE, Minn - A Minneapolis based company believes it could have had a big impact on the Boston marathon bombing probe if its' product - microscopic particles called taggants - were used in the explosives set off that day.
Microtrace Solutions describes taggants as color coded plastic chips that create a chemical bar code and when placed in explosives survive the blast.
"From there investigators can identify the manufacturer and potentially the batch of explosives and from there they follow a paper trail to see who had access to that material so it narrows down the list of potential suspects," said Vice President Brian Brogger.
Brogger says for 30 years, Microtrace has supplied taggants to Switzerland, the only country in the world that requires them in explosives, but in the United States, opponents like the NRA argue taggants could destabilize gun powder, and cost too much.
University of Minnesota chemistry professor Chris Cramer is a military veteran and specialist in explosives and says while cost could be a concern, the chemistry of taggants in gunpowder is not.
'That is not really germane - these are tiny little particles, you can't see of them," he said. "It's a pretty sensible idea in a way, just like other products allowed to be traceable. It just runs into the general second amendment philosophy.
Congress has fiercely debated taggants dating back to the Oklahoma City bombings, when President Clinton first sent lawmakers a bill. 3M initially created the technology but allowed Microtrace to develop it after Switzerland required taggants in all explosives in 1980.
"3M lost the political battle here in the United States but at the same time Switzerland passed a law requiring the use of taggants," said Brogger. "I think it goes back to the dynamics of the debate. On one side you have very large special interests and industry, and on the other side you don't have much of a voice."
Mictrotrace now creates taggants with other application to prevent counterfeit in countless other industries, products like clothes, toys, paint and cosmetics carry this virtual fingerprint. The company makes particles sewn in the labels of clothing, or taggant chemicals that are soluble in cement, paint, or gasoline. The particles shine under a UV or laser light and let the manufacturer know their product is authentic.
Brogger says what is clear, the discussion is often traced back to tragedy, brought up once again after Boston bombs.
"After any terrorist incident or bombing or things like that, the discussion picks up again. And there is a great deal of interest and talk about tagging explosives, but that is where it kind of ends," said Brogger.
Inquiries to the NRA for this story were not returned.
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