For Release: Friday, January 31, 2003
Bush Administration Ignores Danger in “War on Terrorism”
VPC Releases “Just Like Bird Hunting” The Threat to Civil Aviation from 50 Caliber Sniper Rifles
WASHINGTON, DC – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released “Just Like Bird Hunting” The Threat to Civil Aviation from 50 Caliber Sniper Rifles, which details the threat of military-bred 50 caliber sniper rifles to aviation and passengers throughout the United States. The 32-page study discusses the range and striking power of the 50 caliber sniper rifle and its ammunition in the context of potential terrorist attacks against civilian airports and aircraft.
“Increasingly popular 50 caliber sniper rifles, available at your local gun shop, are a lethal danger to the safety and security of Americans. We ask this Administration to consider the serious consequences of the 50 caliber sniper rifle in terrorist hands,” said Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst and study author.
The 50 caliber sniper rifle is capable of firing accurately over thousands of yards and can utilize legally available armor-piercing, incendiary, and explosive ammunition. The U.S. Army’s manual on urban combat states that 50 caliber sniper rifles are intended for use as anti-materiel weapons, designed to attack bulk fuel tanks and other high-value targets from a distance, using “their ability to shoot through all but the heaviest shielding material.” Various models at a wide range of prices are available to civilians from an increasing number of gun manufacturers.
Even the leading manufacturer of these deadly terrorist tools, which are easier to buy than handguns, touts their anti-aircraft capability. In a brochure advertising its Model 82A1 50 caliber sniper rifle, Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. states, “The cost-effectiveness of the Model 82A1 cannot be overemphasized when a round of ammunition purchased for less than 10 USD [U.S. dollars] can be used to destroy or disable a modern jet aircraft.” In 1999 court testimony, Barrett Manufacturing head Ronnie Barrett testified as to the 50 caliber’s ability to destroy aircraft: “If it is coming directly at you, it is almost as easy. Just like bird hunting. But yes, it is more difficult if it is horizontally, or moving from left to right, yes.”
The VPC has warned President Bush, Secretary of the Office Of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and countless other state and federal officials charged with keeping Americans safe from terrorist activities of the dangers posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles.
Three years ago in its report, One Shot, One Kill, the Violence Policy Center warned for the first time that the unfettered sale to civilians of military sniper rifles presented a “serious threat to American national security.” That report focused particularly on the dangers presented by the 50 caliber heavy sniper rifles, noting that these powerful weapons of war present a “whole new order of threat” by their ability to “knock down aircraft, including helicopters, and punch through concrete block, armored vehicles, and other materials that may be relied upon for executive protection.” These devastating features are exactly why Barrett 50 caliber heavy sniper rifles, for example, are in the armories of U.S. Marine Corps snipers and at least 17 other armies around the world.