For Release: Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Law Comes Less Than Three Years After Violence Policy Center First Identified Threat Posed by These Readily Available Tools of Terror
Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Bill That Bans Rifles That Can Destroy Aircraft, Down Helicopters, and Penetrate Armor Plating
Washington, DC – California yesterday became the first state in the nation to ban 50 caliber sniper rifles. The bill, AB 50, was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The threat posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles, and their purchase in the U.S. by terrorists, was first identified by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) in its 2001 report 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 ability of these armor-piecing rifles which are accurate over a mile to attack bulk fuel tanks and other high-value targets from a distance, as well as their ability to destroy commercial aircraft. The VPC has also detailed their criminal use in the United States.
VPC Senior Policy Analyst and study author Tom Diaz states, “California has once again confirmed its status as a bellwether state in preventing gun violence. Today’s action not only protects the police and public, but stops the sale of a confirmed tool of terrorists. We look forward to other states, and eventually the U.S. Congress, following its lead.” Under federal law, 50 caliber rifles are as easy to buy as hunting rifles, and less restricted than handguns.
The effort to ban 50 caliber sniper rifles was led by Assemblyman Paul Koretz and other gun violence prevention leaders in the California Assembly and Senate, as well as the San Francisco-based Trauma Foundation and the Los Angeles-based Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles.