My fellow Open Carriers, I have a request for anyone who may bewilling to help. I am working toward my Health Sciences Degree and as such I am currently taking a writing class. I chose the topic “.50-Caliber Weapons Should Be Regulated. Eli Kintisch. Opposing Viewpoints: Gun Control. Ed. Tami Roleff. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2007. I am writing a response to this paper, and am looking for any information on the topic of why this weapon should not be regulated. I have the general outline completed, and need to have books, articles, or interviews for my works cited, other than what is listed in the papers works cited, so blogs and posting probably will not be of use. I’ll post the paper directly under this post. This post is not meant to bring up the topic for discussion. Anyone who knows my past post knows I’d open carry one if I could…lol. If anyone’s wants to debate the issue please start a separate post. I’m posting this in, hoping to find someone with the information I need. I want to thank you in advance for any help.
.50-Caliber Weapons Should Be Regulated
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"A .50-caliber sniper rifle, experts say, would be more than capable of shooting down an airliner as it took off or landed."
A .50-caliber rifle shoots bullets that are just over one-half inch in diameter and is accurate at ranges of over a mile. In the following viewpoint Eli Kintisch discusses how easy it is to buy .50-caliber rifles. The bullets for .50-caliber rifles are capable of piercing armored plating, which, he asserts, makes the rifle extremely dangerous in the hands of a terrorist, who could use it to shoot down an airplane. Therefore, Kintisch argues, .50-caliber rifles should be subject to the same regulations that govern other types of military weapons. Kintisch is a writer living in Washington, D.C.
As you read, consider the following questions:
1. To what military weapon does Kintisch compare a .50-caliber rifle?
2. What are some of the targets that a .50-caliber rifle can penetrate, according to the author?
3. What are the only requirements for purchasing a .50-caliber rifle in most states, as cited by Kintisch?
Recently I visited Potomac Arms, a gun shop on the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia. Making my way past the samurai swords and shotguns, I found the 17-inch Anzio Ironworks .50-caliber "take-down" rifle—named because it can be disassembled in less than 25 seconds—on display. Another brand of .50-caliber, an ArmaLite, was available in the back, a clerk told me. Buying either gun would not be difficult: Under the Brady Bill, I'd need to show identification, after which my name would be run through a computer to check my criminal and immigration status. With a clean record, I could pay and take the gun with me—with no permanent state or federal record of the sale required.
An Extremely Dangerous Weapon
Many types of firearms can be purchased that easily in the United States. Few of them, however, would be as dangerous in the hands of terrorists. A .50-caliber sniper rifle, experts say, would be more than capable of shooting down an airliner as it took off or landed. Indeed, aimed properly, this weapon could be as effective as a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile, such as the one used by terrorists in an unsuccessful attack on an Israeli passenger plane in Kenya in November . But, whereas anti-aircraft missiles are highly restricted for civilians in the United States and decidedly difficult to obtain illegally, high-caliber guns like the one I saw in Alexandria are available at your local gun shop, at gun shows, or even on the Web. They're also relatively affordable: Security officials estimate that a shoulder-launched missile like the one used in Mombasa would cost up to $5,000 on the black market, with more sophisticated models going for as much as $10,000. A .50-caliber rifle, by contrast, sells for as little as $1,250 at Potomac Arms in Alexandria. Incendiary rounds, which ignite on impact, cost roughly $2 apiece and are also essentially unregulated.
While a .50-caliber rifle is heavy, and would need to be positioned in line with a plane's path, it has the twin benefits of being accurate from more than a mile away and of doing a great deal of damage on impact. "Any hunting rifle is dangerous to an airplane, but a fifty-caliber would be much more effective," says Ken Cooper, a firearms expert who trains law enforcement and security officials in Kingston, New York. Gal Luft, a former lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army and co-director of the Washington-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, calls the .50-caliber "lethal against slow-moving planes." Both experts agree that a plane taking off would be most vulnerable to the guns.
When I left the gun store, I drove for ten minutes to a parking lot outside Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport with a clear line of sight to a dozen or so planes waiting at the terminal. I watched a plane scarcely more than 500 feet away from me take off and pass right overhead, exposing the undersides of its giant wings, where the fuel is stored, for several seconds. Cooper notes that, since .50-caliber rifles with ammo clips are semiautomatic, "the fifty can continuously fire and get off a large number of shots ... even at an airplane going over a hundred miles per hour." Unlike a terrorist, I, of course, hadn't bought a .50-caliber rifle at the store a few miles away.
A National Security Issue
Fifty-caliber sniper rifles are a relatively new weapon, dating back to the 1980s. In World War II, the Browning machine gun, still popular today, fired .50-caliber bullets at a high rate of speed but with little accuracy. Equipped with telescopic sight, the modern .50-caliber rifle shoots bullets, one at a time, with equal power and vastly higher accuracy. Up to five feet long and weighing between 30 and 60 pounds, the gun fires six-inch-long, half-inch-wide bullets that can rip through a 3.5-inch manhole from 200 yards away. In addition to incendiary bullets, armor-piercing rounds are commercially available. During the Gulf war, American soldiers used these to penetrate Iraqi armor from as far as a half-mile away, doing so much long-range damage against one armored personnel carrier that Iraqi troops in the vicinity immediately surrendered. Fifty-caliber rounds can penetrate armored limousines, airport fuel tanks, and, presumably, the presidential helicopter, Marine One. "This threat is not a gun-control issue but a national security issue," writes the Washington-based Violence Policy Center (VPC) in a ... study on airport security and the .50-caliber rifle.
The military acknowledges the gun's specific threat to planes. As pointed out in the VPC report, several U.S. Army manuals warn against the risk of small-arms fire—such as that from a .50-caliber gun—against low-flying aircraft, citing heavy losses from ground fire in Korea and Vietnam. And experts say airliners' large sizes means they would be easier for snipers to hit and destroy than smaller, fast-flying planes. Airplanes waiting on the runway are also vulnerable. A 1995 report done for the Air Force by the Rand Corporation found that .50-caliber guns give "light forces a portable and quite deadly option against parked aircraft." In the November 2001 issue of Airman, the Air Force's official magazine, an article on anti-sniper efforts described planes parked on a fully protected U.S. airbase to be as vulnerable as "ducks on a pond" because .50-caliber guns could shoot from beyond most airbase perimeters.
Manufacturers, eager for military contracts, have actually used the gun's effectiveness against aircraft as a selling point. Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, whose 82A1 model is popular with armies around the world, as well as with some enthusiasts, has claimed in marketing material meant for the military that the guns are "capable of destroying multimillion-dollar aircraft with a single hit delivered to a vital area." In the 1999 federal trial of six men accused of a 1997 assassination attempt on Fidel Castro, Ronnie Barrett, the designer of the .50-caliber rifle and president of Barrett Firearms, testified to his gun's usefulness against commercial planes as they flew toward a sniper's nest. Asked what he deemed the difficulty of hitting a landing airplane with a .50-caliber rifle, he replied, "Just like bird-hunting."
Right now, .50-caliber guns are subject to the same lax federal regulations as hunting shotguns or smaller-target rifles. In most states, the purchaser needs only to have a driver's license, be at least 18 years old, and have a clean criminal and immigration record. Fifty-caliber ammunition, like any other kind of ammo for legal guns, is also widely available: Congress has put limits on armor-penetrating ammunition for handguns, but no limits exist for any but the most lethal .50-caliber ammo. A number of Internet sites offer incendiary and armor-piercing bullets through the mail, and a 1999 General Accounting Office investigation found dealers around the country who would sell the ammunition over the telephone, even to buyers who asked about the bullets' effectiveness against ballistic glass or armored limos.
Part of the reason is that, while .50-caliber rifles were developed more than 15 years ago, their use has been limited to a small cadre of shooting enthusiasts who use the gun for long-distance target shooting or hunting. But the guns are gaining in popularity. Accurate numbers of the guns manufactured in the United States are hard to come by, but Forbes magazine says two dozen manufacturers now make the weapon, and gun magazines have in recent years reported on the burgeoning area of sales to military, police, and civilian markets.
In 1999, after VPC released a report on the gun's increasing popularity, Congress examined the issue for the first time. Since that year, California Democratic Representative Henry Waxman and a handful of other [Capitol] Hill liberals have held hearings and introduced legislation on the guns, calling for .50-caliber rifles to be regulated under the National Firearms Act. That law requires citizens to pay a licensing tax, undergo an extensive check, and wait 90 days to buy machine guns and other kinds of military weapons. This legislation never even received a committee hearing in the Republican-controlled House.
The NRA's Role
The National Rifle Association's (NRA) arguments against restricting these guns are less than persuasive. "They're used for target shooting," said Chuck Michel, attorney for the California Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. (CRPA), the NRA's official state association in California. The NRA also claimed, in an August 28, 2001, fact sheet, that ".50 caliber rifles are not used in crimes," ignoring cases of use by IRA snipers, drug runners, and cult members. In addition, they argued that the cost and size of these weapons make them unappealing for ordinary buyers, despite the gun's growing popularity among, well, ordinary individual buyers. "[T]hey're way too expensive and cumbersome for run-of-the-mill lowlifes," the fact sheet said.
Despite the flimsiness of its arguments, the NRA has successfully blocked the regulation of .50-caliber weapons on the state level. In February 2002, California Assemblyman Paul Koretz introduced a bill to regulate the weapons as assault rifles, and, given California's past success in passing other gun-control legislation, the measure seemed likely to pass. But the CRPA joined with an NRA lobbyist, local gun groups, and Barrett himself to oppose the bill, which died in committee. (One gun-control advocate suggested that pressure to kill the bill also came from California Governor Gray Davis, who didn't want a controversial bill on his desk as he ran for reelection.) Measures that would tighten regulations on .50-caliber guns have similarly gone nowhere in the Illinois and New York legislatures, though the city council in Los Angeles and the Maryland legislature have successfully controlled or banned .50-caliber guns.
Ultimately, though, state regulation wouldn't accomplish much. (A committed terrorist would presumably be willing to drive across state lines to make his purchase.) And action on the federal level has thus far been close to nil. A year ago [in 2002], in a response to Waxman's concerns about the powerful gun's use in terrorism, the Bush administration implicitly acknowledged the need to control these weapons. In a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell ..., Waxman wrote that State Department officials had told his staff that the administration had halted export of the weapons overseas, aiming to keep the rifles out of the hands of foreign terrorists. But, in what Waxman calls a "clear backtrack," State said in a subsequent letter to the representative that its action was not a permanent "change in policy." That's too bad. It would have been nice to think the administration cared more about America's security than about the gun lobby.
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