Senator Feinstein Leads Coalition of Senators to Introduce Bill to Regulate .50 BMG Caliber Combat-Style Sniper Rifle
May 08 2007
Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), today introduced legislation to regulate the transfer and possession of .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles, which have extraordinary firepower and range (more than a mile with accuracy, with a maximum distance of up to four miles). These combat-style weapons are capable of bringing down airliners and helicopters that are taking off or landing, puncturing pressurized chemical storage facilities, and penetrating light armored personnel vehicles and protective limousines.
Current federal law classifies all .50 caliber rifles as “long guns,” subject to the least government regulation for any firearm. While the State Department has acknowledged the danger of these weapons by suspending all export of .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles weapons for civilian use in foreign countries, these weapons can still be purchased in the United States with little to no regulation.
“These are combat-style weapons designed to kill people efficiently and destroy machinery at a great distance. This legislation would regulate these dangerous combat weapons, making it harder for terrorists and others to buy them for illegitimate use,” Senator Feinstein said. “This legislation doesn’t ban any firearms; it would only institute common-sense regulations for the sale of these dangerous sniper rifles”
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Carl Levin (D-Mi), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Frank Lautenberg (D- N.J.).
A .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle weighs up to 28 pounds and fires the most powerful commonly available cartridges – the massive Browning Machine Gun cartridge, which has a diameter of ½ inch and a length of 3-6 inches.
A broad coalition of law enforcement organizations have called on Congress to regulate .50 caliber sniper rifles, including:
- International Brotherhood of Police Officers,
- Major Cities Chiefs Association,
- National Black Police Association,
- Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association,
- National Latino Peace Officers Association,
- The Police Foundation, and others.
The law enforcement groups have noted that “it is of special concern to the law enforcement community that these weapons of war are capable of penetrating our special operations vehicles, tactical equipment, and helicopters,” and warned that “their easy availability on the civilian market make them very attractive to potential terrorists.”
Long-Range Sniper Rifle Safety Act of 2007
This legislation would:
- Add the .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle to the list of firearms classified as “destructive devices” under the National Firearms Act, which would mean they must be registered when purchased or sold;
- Require the same registration for any “copycat” sniper rifles that might be developed in the future with destructive power that is equivalent to the .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle; and
- Allow people who already possess .50 BMG caliber sniper weapons up to seven years to register their existing firearms by implementing a registration process identical to what was used when “street sweeper” and other firearms were reclassified as “destructive devices” in 1994.