Al Qaeda Already Has 25!
NEW YORK, NY - Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY), Chair of the Task Force on Homeland Security for the House Democratic Caucus, urged a crack down on access in U.S. markets to the 50 caliber armor-piercing sniper rifle, a weapon of terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda.
Joined by leaders of the Violence Policy Center and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Maloney revealed how easy access to the 50 caliber weapon in the United States threatens the nation’s civil aviation system, as well as its chemical and refinery plants and the hundreds of thousands of residents living in communities around those plants. Maloney noted specifically that the 50 caliber’s power, long-distance accuracy, and explosive ammunition make it a weapon of choice among terrorists, but that U.S. regulation on the sale and monitoring of these weapons remains extremely weak.
Congresswoman Maloney said, “This is an obvious weapon of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist, but under current federal law it is easier to purchase than a basic handgun. A terrorist could ignite an airplane or chemical plant from thousands of yards away with this weapon, increasing the chance of escape and repeat attacks. Cracking down on access to the 50 caliber should be a crucial part of the country’s homeland security strategy, but right now that sense of urgency is missing in Washington.”
Tom Diaz, Violence Policy Center senior policy analyst and author of numerous VPC studies on the threat posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles, stated, “These anti-armor rifles can take out light armored vehicles, are capable of turning commercial jetliners into bombs on the ground, and of knocking helicopters out of the air. And, they are capable of igniting railcars and stationary tank farms containing extremely hazardous, volatile, and explosive chemicals.”
“New Yorkers Against Gun Violence strongly supports this legislation because these weapons are designed for military - not civilian - use. The 50 caliber sniper rifle has the ability to destroy targets with pin-point accuracy at more than a mile away. In addition, it is well documented that domestic and international terrorist groups have legally purchased these weapons,” said Andy Pelosi, NYAGV’s executive director.
“The 50 caliber rifle could easily be used on chemical storage tanks to turn them into weapons of mass destruction. Estimates of the death toll far exceed those we suffered on September 11th. Since 9/11 no new federal laws or regulations on these weapons or chemical plants have been implemented. When it comes to a choice between protecting the public or regulating their friends in business, public safety seems to take a back seat to business as usual at the White House,” said Rick Hind, Legislative Director of Greenpeace.
Maloney called for Congressional passage of House Resolution 4292, to ban 50 caliber sniper rifles and otherwise regulate the weapons in the same manner as machine guns are regulated. Maloney is a cosponsor of the legislation originally offered by Representative James Moran (VA). In addition, she urged the Department of Justice to begin tracking the use of the 50 caliber in crimes and terrorist activities, so that the federal government has better knowledge of the threat level that this weapon poses.
Excerpts from Maloney’s statement at today’s event follow: “In New York City, still considered target number one of future terrorist attacks, we have three major international airports and large chemical sites under risk of attack by the 50 caliber. This weapon was not built for hobbies or marksmanship, but for military purposes. According to its original patent filing, it was designed to destroy aircraft at long range, beyond security perimeters.
“Semi-automatic versions of these guns can fire as many as ten rounds in one minute at a plane, but it only takes one accurate hit to the fuselage, engine or cockpit to cause disaster. There are even two published books on the market that explain how to use this sniper weapon to attack planes and helicopters. All this may be why the conservative Rand Corporation, in a 1995 report, found the 50 caliber sniper rifle to be a serious threat to U.S. military air bases.
“Today, nine years after that report and three years after 9/11, these terrorist weapons remain under extremely loose regulation. They weren’t covered by the assault weapon ban. They are as easy to purchase as a regular rifle and even easier to purchase than a hand gun. No federal agency keeps track of cases involving the 50 caliber - and yet we know terrorists and criminal organizations have sought them.
“It is known that Al Qaeda has at least 25, the Church Universal and Triumphants has at least 10, the IRA has 2, and the Militia Training Camp in Canada has 1. They have also been found in the armories of drug dealers in California, Montana, and Indiana. The Sakina Security Services, a fundamentalist Islamic organization, offered a two week training course called ‘The Ultimate Jihad Challenge’ that taught participants sniper skills.
“This weapon not only threatens American planes and airports, but also chemical and refinery plants. The military's top choice of ammunition for the 50 caliber is not only armor-piercing, but also explosive and incendiary - meaning it causes fire. That type of ammunition could easily cause a huge disaster at a chemical or refinery plant in the U.S. and right here in New York City. The Environmental Protection Agency found 123 plants with chemicals that place 1 million people in danger if attacked, 700 plants that place 100,000 people in danger, 3,000 plants that place 10,000 people in danger.
“By allowing such weak regulation of the 50 caliber to continue, our government is failing to do all that it can to prevent this dangerous weapon from getting into the hands of terrorists. The federal assault weapons ban expires in less than a month, on September 13, 2004. We need to renew the ban and strengthen it to include the copy-cat weapons manufactures make to evade the law. And we need to treat the 50 caliber armor-piercing sniper rifle like the terrorist threat that it is. The danger to the country is too great to delay any longer.”