Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1959 No. 36 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Smokeless powder is an explosive within the meaning of the explosives law and the standards for licensing and storage prescribed by law are applicable.

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                                                                   May 18, 1959

Honorable Jerry Hagan, Director
Department of Labor and Industries
General Administration Building
lympia, Washington                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 36

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office upon several questions paraphrased as follows:

            (1) Is gunpowder an explosive within the meaning of the explosives law?

            (2) Do the standards of licensing and storage prescribed by law for explosives apply to smokeless powder?

            We answer both questions in the affirmative.


            The facts, out of which these questions arise, are stated in your letter as follows:

            "It has been recently brought to our attention that there are various dealers throughout the State of Washington, usually sporting goods dealers, who handle what is known as smokeless powder.  This powder is used for reloading rifle and shotgun cartridges.  In the past the great majority of these  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] dealers have not secured magazine or dealers licenses, nor have they been required to comply with the explosive act as pertaining to storage."

            Question (1) The explosives law is contained in chapter 111, Laws of 1931, as amended by chapter 101, Laws of 1941, presently codified as RCW 70.74.010 through 70.74.240.

            RCW 70.74.010 defines an explosive as follows:

            "The term 'explosive' or 'explosives' whenever used in this act, shall be held to mean and include any chemical compound or mechanical mixture that is commonly used or intended for the purpose of producing an explosion, that contains any oxidizing and combustible units, or other ingredients in such proportions, quantities or packing, that an ignition by fire, by friction, by concussion, by percussion, or by detonator of any part of the compound or mixture may cause such a sudden generation of highly heated gases that the resultant gaseous pressures are capable of producing destructive effects on contiguous objects or of destroying life or limb."

            Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary, 2nd Edition, defines smokeless powder:

            "a kind of gunpowder exploding with little or no smoke."  (p. 1715)

            In view of the law's comprehensive definition of "explosive," it is our opinion that smokeless powder is an explosive within the meaning of the explosives act.

            Question (2) RCW 70.74.020 provides, in part:

            "No person shall manufacture, process, have, keep or store explosives in this state, except in compliance with this act, except that explosives may be manufactured without compliance with this act in the laboratories of schools, colleges and similar institutions, for the purpose of investigation and instruction."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The act requires licenses in the following instances:

            (1) The manufacture of explosives, or any process involving explosives, or when explosives are used as a component part in the manufacture of any article or device.  RCW 70.74.110

            (2) All persons engaged in the keeping or storing and all persons having possession of explosives.  RCW 70.74.120

            (3) Every person engaged in the business of dealing in explosives. RCW 70.74.130

            Generally, the act provides, as a prerequisite to the issuance of a license, that the department of labor and industries inspect the storage facilities for compliance with the applicable provisions of the law.

            In addition to the exemption contained in RCW 70.74.020, supra, certain groups, individuals and situations are expressly exempt from the provisions of the act by RCW 70.74.190.  Briefly, the law exempts from its operation regular military or naval forces of the United States; authorized militia of a state or territory; state, county or municipal police or fire departments; common fire works; explosives being transported in conformity with interstate commerce commission regulations; consumers of blasting explosives for agricultural purposes, not exceeding two thousand pounds; any explosives in quantities not exceeding ten pounds at any one time.

            It is an established rule of statutory construction that the express mention of one thing will be taken to imply the exclusion of another thing,expressio unius est exclusio alterius.  Bradley v. Department of Labor and Industries, 52 Wn. (2d) 780, 784, 329 P. (2d) 196 (1958).

            The application of the rule to the present situation results in the conclusion that the only exemptions from the operation of the explosives act are those specifically mentioned in the law itself.  We note, with one possible exception, that the law contains no express exemption applicable to the instant situation.

            The apparent intent of the explosives law is to regulate nearly all situations in which explosives are involved.  There are certain express exemptions in the law and neither sporting goods dealers nor smokeless powder are  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] among the exemptions.  Therefore, it is our opinion that the standards of licensing and storage prescribed by law for explosives apply to smokeless powder.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General