Anti-gun groups and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) are making far-fetched claims about crimes they believe might be committed with .50 caliber rifles.1 Urged on by such speculations, CBS and CNN recently aired unbalanced, irresponsible stories portraying the rifles as "too dangerous to be in the hands of private citizens" and "a clear and present danger to the public safety."2 Instead, the facts are:
- .50 caliber rifles have existed since the 1860s. Those that use modern .50 cal. ammunition have existed for a half century. Those that anti-gunners attack now have existed since the 1980s.
- .50 caliber rifles are virtually unheard of in crime. Modern .50 caliber rifles are too large, heavy, and expensive for most criminals. They generally measure 4-5 feet in length, weigh between 22-34 pounds, and cost thousands of dollars. The VPC has identified only two crimes in the U.S. since 1992 in which a .50 caliber rifle was fired.
- Most .50 caliber owners use their rifles for long-range target shooting competitions. Long-range matches have been common for more than a century. For 20 years, the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association has been the nation's leading exponent of .50 caliber marksmanship competitions.
- Modern .50 caliber rifle ammunition was invented in the 1920s. Despite anti-gunners' claims, Mk211 .50 cal. rounds are not available to the public, but are restricted to military use only.
- The use of modern .50 caliber rifles by private citizens has played a key role in developing the rifles for subsequent military use. Most rifles, pistols, and shotguns used by today's military were first used by civilians. Civilians have owned most of the same firearms as the military throughout America's history. Under federal law, civilians have comprised the Militia of the U.S. since 1792, and federal law has encouraged civilian ownership of military firearms since 1905.
Anti-gunners are just trying to manufacture an issue to rejuvenate their gun-banning agenda, which collapsed last year when Congress allowed the Clinton Gun Ban to expire, after independent studies for Congress showed that the ban had been a mistake.3 The Congressional Research Service's report also exposed anti-gun groups' false claims about the ban.4 Ultimately, anti-gunners always want to ban somethingÐall handguns, small handguns, semi-auto rifles, pump-action shotguns, .50 cal. rifles, or varmint-caliber pistols. But whatever the gun, anti-gunners' rhetoric is always the same.
1. Violence Policy Center: www.vpc.org/terror.htm; Brady Campaign: "News Release," 2/14/05; Freedom States Alliance: www.50caliberterror.com; and Moran: "Dear Colleague" letter, 1/10/05.
2. CBS "60 Minutes," Jan. 9, 2005; and CNN "Paula Zahn Now," Feb. 17, 2005.
3. Urban Institute, "Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994," 3/13/97; Koper et al., "Impact of handgun types on gun assault outcomes," Injury Prevention, Sept. 2003; Koper et al., Report to the National Institute of Justice, An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, June 2004.
4. CRS Report for Congress: Semiautomatic Assault Weapons Ban, Dec. 16, 2004.