For Release: Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Washington, DC – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today joined Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), and Henry Waxman (D-CA) at a Capitol Hill press conference in support of federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Moran to ban 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles. Fifty caliber anti-armor sniper rifles can penetrate armor plating, pierce rail cars carrying toxic chemicals, and destroy aircraft. An ArmaLite AR-50 sniper rifle was displayed at the press conference.
Currently being used by U.S. troops in Iraq, 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles are accurate at distances of more than a mile, yet under federal law are sold in the United States with fewer restrictions than a standard handgun. Recognizing the terror threat posed by these military rifles, in September 2004, California became the first state in the nation to ban them.
Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst and author of numerous VPC studies on the threat posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles, states, “These weapons of war are ideal tools for terrorism. They can take out light armored vehicles, are capable of turning commercial jetliners into bombs on the ground, and of knocking helicopters out of the air. They are capable of igniting railcars and stationary tank farms containing extremely hazardous, volatile, and explosive chemicals. And yet, under federal law and the law of the vast majority of states, 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles are as easy to buy legally as a standard hunting rifle and easier to buy legally than handguns.”
The VPC first identified the threat posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles in its landmark 2001 study Voting From the Rooftops: How the Gun Industry Armed Osama bin Laden, Other Foreign and Domestic Terrorists, and Common Criminals With 50 Caliber Sniper Rifles. Subsequent VPC studies have exposed the environmental safety threats presented by these guns’ ability to penetrate from a distance bulk fuel and chemical tanks, as well as their ability to destroy commercial aircraft.