Senator wants to limit "easy access" to dangerous explosives

Tannerite is a dangerous explosive used at shooting ranges.

13 Investigates has discovered easy access explosives in stores around Indianapolis. Nearly anyone can buy them with almost no questions asked.

There is a good chance you have not heard of a product called tannerite and neither had a state senator until Eyewitness News showed him what it can do.

Indianapolis Metro Police Bomb Squad Commander Ron Humbert says tannerite and explosives like it have no business in the hands of anyone other than trained professionals. But it is for sale in almost any sporting goods store and gun shop in Indiana. It can be sold to anyone - regardless of criminal history.

Tannerite and other explosives like it are supposed to be used on a shooting range or in wide open areas. Tannerite is an exploding rifle target that is popular with recreational shooters. When the bullet hit the target, the shooter gets instant feedback in the form of an explosion.

But it is the other uses that can be troubling and that worries a lot of people in law enforcement, including Humbert.

"You can take it and, just like anything else, when somebody is making an improvised explosive device, you can take it out of its original intended purpose and you can make something criminal out of it," he said.

It's the easy, unregulated access to explosives like tannerite that has Humbert worried. It is simple to buy, you can order it on the Internet and buy it in gun shops and sporting goods stores. One store clerk told Eyewitness News, "There is no restriction on how much we can sell, so you can buy it all."

No questions asked, no restrictions, nothing stopping us or anyone from buying a half-pound or a thousand.

State Senator Jim Merritt bought a half pound of tannerite for demonstration purposes. When used for its intended purpose, the blast destroyed the wood it was placed on.

"That explosion, yeah, if this doesn't scare ya, you're not breathing," said Merritt.

To find out what we are dealing with, we doubled the amount and put one pound of tannerite in a metal mailbox. A retired police officer shot it with a high-powered rifle. Metal debris was sent hundreds of feet in the air, the door of the mail box flew more than one hundred yards.

Officers from the ATF and IMPD Bomb Squad helped us set off two pounds of the explosive with a blasting cap. As expected, the blast was twice as powerful with twice the damage.

Eyewitness News showed the video to Marion County Sheriff John Layton.

"That is a nightmare. That is a nightmare for law enforcement and people who are in charge of large buildings, be it government or private sector," said Layton.

Merritt calls tannerite and explosives like it an issue of homeland security. After what he saw, the senator says he's introducing state legislation to regulate how tannerite and explosives like it are sold.

He is asking for the legislation to restrict how much of the explosive a person can buy at any one time and require that retailers place the explosives behind the counter and is working on a method to keep track of who is buying the explosive.