NOVA Online: Bombing of America

Juvenile Bombers: The Tragic Facts

The science behind bomb making is as hot as science gets—and as dangerous. We wish we could say that bombs and young people have nothing in common. Unfortunately, for some kids in America, the temptation to experiment with explosives is just too irresistible.

It may not surprise you to learn that a number of children below the age of 19 know how to make bombs. We live in a world where information is very easy to come by, especially over the Internet. The problem is, not all information is complete, and what you don't know can hurt, or even kill, you.

Do You Know?

  1. How many bombs made by juveniles are discovered—either exploding on purpose or going off accidentally—every year?
  2. Between 1992-1994, how many juveniles died in the process of making, moving or placing a bomb?
  3. In the same two year period, 1992-94, how many juveniles were injured in the process of making, moving or placing a bomb?
  4. Of the bombs made by juveniles, what percent work?
  5. How many of the bombings that happen across the country are caused by juveniles?


  1. On average, 1,000 bombs are created by juveniles each year.
  2. 13 juveniles died between1992 and 1994 as a result of making a bomb.
  3. 91 juveniles were injured in the process of making, moving or placing a bomb between 1992-1994.
  4. 87% of the bombs made by juveniles work; the reason is that the bombs juveniles tend to make are simple and easy to assemble.
  5. 32% of all bombs reported across the country are made by children under the age of 19.

Why Do Kids Bomb?

Sadly, there's no simple answer, although many teens are simply experimenting. Juvenile bomb-makers, like adult bomb-makers, are almost exclusively male. They come from all social backgrounds, and might be honor roll students or dropouts. Some make bombs without having deep psychological reasons for doing so. Others, such as the high school student in Indianapolis—who placed a bomb inside a toothpaste dispenser which severely injured a 4-year-old girl—may have some personal problems that they can't manage.

One reason why so many homemade bomb experiments end in tragedy is that the builders don't realize just how quickly the ingredients react to heat or friction. As they start to assemble the ingredients, the materials explode.

As our NOVA program points out, the incidence of bombings in America has quintupled over the last five years. If you know of anyone who is planning to make, or has made, bombs, don't be afraid to make a report. The 24 hour, toll-free number at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is 1-800-800-3855. Use it. You could save lives.

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