I Get A Round
America is a dangerous country. As Michael Moore demonstrated in Bowling For Columbine, it is incredibly easy to get a weapon in America. I'm not just talking about your .22s or 9mm handguns - I'm talking military weapons.
The good Orange County (CA) Republican gun afficianados I work with tell me of a gun 'dealer' who goes around the West demonstrating the incredible firepower of the Browning .50 machine gun of WWII fame. With this gun - which his Federal license allows him to have because he's a 'dealer' - he sets up a 'target' of old freight pallets on a hillside up to a mile away, then proceeds to 'destroy' this target with the Browning. I'm told it only takes about 1 belt to leave this 'target' flaming away.
Imagine my shock when I read this:
MILFORD, Kan. -- A fisherman found a heavy machine gun on the ice of a creek near Fort Riley, and sheriff's deputies later found two more.
The three Browning .50-caliber guns were all in working condition, Geary County Sheriff's Lt. Sandy Popovich said, but none was loaded.
Not being loaded is a good thing, but being in working condition and available for absolutely anyone to carry away is not. That, however, isn't the scary part:
Jeff Coverdale, a Fort Riley spokesman, said no missing weapons had been reported to his office.
Now - THAT'S scary! And that isn't all. There is yet another scary .50 caliber weapon out there - a legal one - that anyone can buy. One that should scare the hell out of all of us for its powerful capabilities.
A military rifle capable of piercing armor from over a mile away is too readily available to civilians, and could end up in terrorists' hands, say critics of the .50-caliber weapon that is for sale in 49 states.
Getting scared yet? It gets worse!
Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C. argues the rifle can be used to pierce and blow up chemical storage tanks from afar, affording the terrorist an easy escape. "The point is you can plan your attack from a longer distance. It's the combination of range and power," says Diaz, who fears there will be deadly results from such an attack on containers of toxic or flammable materials.
Diaz also fears the powerful gun could be used to shoot at aircraft that are landing or taking off. The potential danger the .50-caliber poses to aircraft taxiing on the runway or parked at the gate was outlined in a Rand Corporation report on terror vulnerabilities at Los Angeles International Airport.
The report saw no way to protect the planes.
"It's a target rifle. It's a toy...a high-end adult recreational toy."
The gun's inventor, who sells the weapons to civilians for sport and to armies around the world, says Diaz could be right, but is being reckless. "Yes it could be [used in those terrorist scenarios], but it's also seeming, begging someone to commit this crime. 'Somebody please commit this crime so I can validate what I've been saying so long,'" says Ronnie Barrett of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing.
"It's kind of a classic gun industry argument," says Diaz. "First they deny there's a problem and then when something happens, they point the finger at people who tried to warn about it."
Barrett points out that the gun's extreme size and weight make it an unlikely weapon of choice for criminals. "As far as the abuses with .50-caliber rifles, they are so few, if any, that all other calibers ought to aspire to have as good a record as it has," he tells Bradley.
As for terrorism, Barrett says, "Any rifle in the hands of a terrorist is a deadly weapon."
Diaz is hoping Congress will pass a law requiring that the names of owners of .50-caliber rifles be kept on file. "No one in the U.S. government knows who has these guns," he says.
This could get interesting - the NRA and the Second Amendment wackos versus Homeland Security. Someone start the popcorn!
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