Restrictions on availability of bomb-making material.
Pointing to the Oklahoma City bombing sixteen years prior, the Department of Homeland Security in 2011 proposed limiting the availability of the fertilizer used in that attack. In this case, the targeted restriction would likely want to focus on black powder.
Likelihood of preventing a bombing: Low. Buying black powder in the state of Massachusetts requires a gun license and a firearms identification card. Banning it entirely would require legislation in the state that might raise Second Amendment concerns; black powder is used in certain firearms and for some ammunition. Not that a Massachusetts ban would be enough. Any state would need either a national ban on sales or production of the powder, or to have bomb dogs sniffing every car or person entering or leaving.
Infringement on civil liberties: Medium. Gun advocates would almost certainly argue that a restriction on black powder is an infringement on their Constitutional rights.
Increased security at vulnerable locations.
This was the strategy used by Homeland Security after 9/11: tightly securing access to airplanes and airports.
Likelihood of preventing a bombing: Medium. While the DHS changes at airports preceded a period during which there were no airplane hijackings and no domestic bombing attempts, it's not clear the extent to which those things are correlated.
But it's much easier to implement tighter restrictions at airports than it is to secure both sides of a 26-mile race course that winds through residential and commercial districts. The only area of the race course yesterday to which access was limited were the areas in gray below and the stretch along the south side of Boylston Street near the finish line. It was right across from that area that the first explosion occurred.
Infringement on civil liberties: Medium. While no one has to attend a sporting event, a large increase in searches to gain access to the event would be intrusive — if even possible.
Focus on identifying and stopping potential terrorists.
After the 9/11 attacks, both the FBI and the NYPD sent undercover officers into Muslim communities and mosques in order to ferret out any bomb plots. A number of plots have since been revealed.
Likelihood of preventing a bombing: Low. Many of the plots that the FBI has disrupted were ones in which the only dangerous elements were promised by undercover FBI agents. The 9/11 attacks also provided a ready profile of an attacker: a person of Muslim faith, often of Middle Eastern birth. In cases of domestic terror, which Boston may turn out to be, the profile has historically been much looser and much more broadly applicable to a broad swath of the American population.
Infringement on civil liberties: High. The FBI and NYPD have been repeatedly criticized for the way in which they've targeted Muslim-Americans and resident immigrants.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.