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Violence Policy Center

FEBRUARY 6, 2006
2:30 PM

CONTACT:  Violence Policy Center
Marty Langley,
202-822-8200 ext. 109

Federal Indictment Confirms Again That the 50 Caliber Anti-Armor Sniper Rifle Is a Weapon of Choice Among Terrorists

WASHINGTON - February 6 - A recently unsealed indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Miami, Florida, adds a Colombian terrorist organization to the growing list of terror entities that have chosen the 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle as a favorite weapon, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) warned today.  The indictment was returned on January 3, 2006, and unsealed on January 26, 2006.  It charges 10 foreign nationals with a variety of offenses, including attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization--the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

According to the 17-count indictment, the defendants offered to help persons they believed to be members of FARC buy fifty 50 calibers.  Accurate to over a mile, 50 caliber sniper rifles can penetrate armor plating and destroy aircraft, but are sold with fewer federal controls than a standard handgun.

A 2001 VPC study, "Voting From the Rooftops," revealed how Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terror network, purchased at least twenty-five 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifles in the U.S. during the 1980s, and that an unknown number of the guns were also purchased in the U.S. by the terrorist Irish Republican Army.  A number of domestic terror and fringe organizations have also purchased the guns in varying quantities.  [For VPC studies on these deadly rifles, as well as their use by criminals and terrorists, please see]

The July 2005 VPC report "Clear and Present Danger:  National Security Experts Warn About the Danger of Unrestricted Sales of 50 Caliber Anti-Armor Sniper Rifles to Civilians" documented national security officials’ concerns about the destructive capabilities of these military bred weapons.  The study revealed the details of a report authored by a senior U.S. Secret Service official, previously classified as "Secret," warning that large caliber sniper rifles posed a threat to the President, other senior government officials, and to civil aviation.

“Terrorists love these rifles because they are ideal tools for terror,” said Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst and author of the VPC reports.  “They come to the United States to buy them because our laws are so weak and so laxly enforced that anyone with a credit card and a believable ID can outfit an army with such incredibly destructive weapons of war as the 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle.”

Diaz noted that the current indictment soundly refutes the gun industry and its apologists who continue to insist, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that the rifles are of interest only to sportsmen and collectors, not to terrorists.


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