WASHINGTON - August 18 - The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today joined Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in calling for a federal ban on 50 caliber, anti-armor sniper rifles. Fifty caliber sniper rifles can penetrate armor plating, pierce rail cars carrying toxic chemicals, and destroy aircraft. Currently being used by U.S. troops in Iraq, 50 caliber 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. The guns have already been banned in Los Angeles, CA, and Contra Costa County, CA. In March 2004, the New York State Assembly voted to ban the weapons statewide.
At a noon press conference held at the U.S. General Services Administration Offices at 26 Federal Plaza, the VPC released a new analysis, The Threat Posed to Helicopters by 50 Caliber Anti-Armor Sniper Rifles. An ArmaLite AR-50 sniper rifle was also displayed at the press conference. Legislation to restrict these weapons, sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Maloney, is currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst and author of numerous VPC studies on the threat posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles, stated, "These anti-armor rifles 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. And, they are capable of igniting railcars and stationary tank farms containing extremely hazardous, volatile, and explosive chemicals."
The VPC first identified the threat posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles with 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.