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One Shot, One Kill: Civilian Sales of Military Sniper Rifles

NCJ Number
Tom Diaz
Bill McGeveran
Date Published
May 1999
71 pages
This report documents the dangers posed by civilian sales of military sniper rifles by explaining the dangerous capabilities of sniper rifles and by exploring the gun industry's efforts to market sniper rifles.
An extremely powerful weapon, the sniper rifle uses high-caliber ammunition with extraordinarily long ranges. The sniper rifle is a military weapon, fielded by armies in conflicts around the world. Nonetheless, sniper rifles are now freely available in gun shops, even though they are radically different from standard hunting rifles. Sniper rifles can be used with great accuracy against targets at much longer distances than ordinary hunting or sporting rifles. The most destructive rounds fired by sniper rifles are 50-caliber, the largest round of ammunition generally available to citizens. Beyond the mere size of the round, other factors can increase the sniper rifle's destructive potential, including semi-automatic models and armor-piercing rounds. The accuracy, range, and power of sniper rifles present grave dangers if used by a determined criminal, a deranged gunman, or a terrorist. Even so, the gun industry markets sniper rifles for civilians. The sale of sniper rifles in the civilian market is cause for concern, especially in terms of the cultural context in which the gun industry sells the weapons. Articles against sniper rifles are becoming increasingly common in the popular gun press. Videotapes and video games about sniper rifles are also proliferating. The threat of sniper rifles is discussed, and suggestions are offered on how to deal with the sniper rifle marketing campaign of the gun industry. These suggestions focus on adding heavy and intermediate sniper rifles to the National Firearms Act, evaluating an import ban on sniper rifles, improving reporting and record-keeping requirements, using the civil justice system to hold manufacturers accountable, banning the sale of armor-piercing ammunition, and enacting comprehensive regulation of the gun industry. Additional information on sniper rifles is presented in two appendixes. 190 notes and 12 photographs