For Release: Monday, May 3, 1999
Powerful Weapons Can Shoot Down Airplanes, Penetrate Armor From Over a Mile Away
New VPC Report Exposes Aggressive Marketing Efforts, Burgeoning Subculture of Sniper Enthusiasts
The gun industry’s sale of military sniper rifles to civilian customers poses a serious threat to national securityï¿½making the ideal weapon for assassination and destruction available to terrorists, criminals, or mentally unstable people in the United States, according to a new report by the Violence Policy Center. The study was released today at a minority Congressional hearing organized by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rod Blagojevich (D-IL).
Radically different from typical hunting firearms, sniper rifles boast breathtaking accuracy, range, and power. The weapon is capable of pinpoint shots from distances of up to 2,000 yardsï¿½so that a marksman could hit a target next to the Pentagon in Virginia when firing from the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials in Washington. Even at such long range, the bullets can penetrate armor. Despite these capabilities, federal law treats these weapons no differently from our grandfathers’ deer rifles.
“If sniper rifle sales continue, it’s only a matter of time before a domestic terrorist uses one,” said VPC Senior Policy Analyst Tom Diaz, the report’s author. “The destructive capability of the sniper rifle is chilling.”
The new report, One Shot, One Kill: Civilian Sales of Military Sniper Rifles, explains the capabilities of sniper rifles, exposes the industry’s aggressive efforts to market them, and uncovers the lurid subculture associated with the weapons.
Boosted in gun magazines and publications such as Soldier of Fortune, the sniper subculture glorifies the grisly aspects of the sniper fantasy, diminishes the human cost, and teaches the avid reader everything about sniping, from equipment to tactics. Countless books, videos, and articles are filled with graphic descriptions of sniper wounds, while a cottage industry of video games, posters, and even tee shirts capitalizes on the sniper mystique.
The VPC has acquired samples of this material, including a tee shirt emblazoned with the motto “One Shot One Kill” and several sniper books and magazines, which can be made available for journalists to examine and photograph.
“The marketing of the sniper rifle presents a combustible mix of mordant fantasies and the ideal weapon to carry them out,” Diaz said. “It may be a mere diversion for some, but remember that the perpetrators of such atrocities as the Columbine High School massacre and the Oklahoma City bombing were deeply immersed in the netherworld of the gun culture.”
The report offers a range of responses for policymakers who want to neutralize the threat of sniper rifles. Among the proposals are stricter regulations of the rifles and a ban on armor-piercing ammunitionï¿½now legalï¿½which gives the guns even greater penetrating power.
Diaz first came across marketing of the sniper rifle while researching his book on the gun industry, Making A Killing: The Business of Guns in America. After some further probing last fall, the Violence Policy Center brought these alarming findings to the staff of Congressmen Waxman and Blagojevich, who immediately followed up by commissioning a study by the General Accounting Office.
“We at the VPC want to thank Congressman Waxman and Congressman Blagojevich for their swift and aggressive response,” Diaz said. “They and their staff were as shocked as we were when we learned of this craven effort to sell such lethal guns. I think average Americans will share our fears.”