The Fifty-caliber rifle has taken the country by storm in recent years, gaining fast attention for those who have found an interest in extremely long-range marksmanship. These guns, who pose no overt threat to the safety of the republic to itself, are now the subject of another sort of attention. That of anti-gunners who have chosen to pick on this chambering to test that oh so subtle of dangerous beasts: the caliber ban.
(From left to right, the 50-.300-308-7.62x39-22LR)
Is the .50 a legitimate threat?
Anti-second amendment groups have long stated that John Browning's .50 caliber BMG round has been used increasingly in criminal activity to include use by cults, gangs, and domestic terrorists. One group has a laundry list of some sixty instances where a fifty has been used in the commission of a crime. The thing is, if you look at the list, which includes acts overseas in places such as Narco-terror riddled Northern Mexico, the vast majority of instances listed are cases where one of these guns were simply recovered from criminals along with dozens of other often illegally procured firearms-- not used in a crime itself.
(This is what the anti-gunners think when they hear of a 50 caliber)
With literally thousands of these guns on the civilian market, the odds of the occasional one being stolen and found in the criminal underworld is pretty good. The same could be said for fast cars, expensive knives, and nice watches, but no one is calling for bans on Porches, Tighe Knives or Rolexes. If these are recovered at crime scenes, are they written up and decried as evil? Of course not, because they are just objects-- as is the .50. And objects are neither good nor evil.
(This is closer to the truth for civilian owned 50s in the US)
Attempts at Federal Bans
Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in almost every session from 1999 to 2010 to bring 50 caliber rifles under the National Firearms Act, thereby imposing registration requirements and other regulations on their importation, manufacture, and transfer. In each of these cases the bills died in committee and never made it to the floor, but if they had been passed into law would have reclassified .50 caliber guns and their ammunition as Destructive Devices, subjecting each to incredible regulation to include background checks, fingerprinting, photographing of owners, and letters from the local chief law enforcement officer of the area the potential owner lived in. Then add to this a $200 tax stamp and a six-month wait, and you might be able to get your .50. As such, if you ever wanted to sell it, you can only imagine the hoops to jump through.
The failed 2013 Assault Weapons Ban did not propose to ban all .50s (yet), it did specify that the Barrett M107A1 and M82A1 series would be outlawed by name. These two models are perhaps the most popular large caliber guns on the market, potentially selling more than all of the other .50s combined.
In a tactic that's been shown to be tried and true when they anti's can't get a nationwide ban; they head to the states and do it one assembly at a time. The first to go was California in 2005. The "The .50 Caliber BMG Regulation Act of 2004", declared that "proliferation and use" of .50 BMG rifles posed a terrorist threat, as well as a threat to the "health, safety, and security of all residents" of California. The law cut off future sales of the large caliber rifle in the state and required registration of those already inside the left coast with the state police. The lawmakers pushing for the ban claimed of a terrorist threat, yet there have been no terrorist attacks in the United States involving a .50 BMG. Further, on the laundry list of 'crimes' reported linked back to the .50 mentioned above, there has not been an instance where one has been used to harm or kill anyone in California.
Both New York , and Illinois are working on their own legislation to ban the sale, use or possession of 50-caliber weapons as this goes to post. In New Jersey, which has had the same non-existent problem with the .50 that California, a ban seems just around the corner. The NJ State Assembly passed AB3659, sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-18) by a 41-33 vote, which plans to do just that last month.
Why should non-50 owners care?
Currently the .50caliber BMG is the largest round available on the market that is not controlled by the National Firearms Act. If it is placed under the control of that act, or banned outright, it is a direct attack on gun owners everywhere. By letting this happen, what is the next round that will be considered 'too big for legitimate sporting use'? Will .338 go next year? Then .300 Win Mag? Then 30.06?
As the Pastor Niemoller, a Protestant minister in Hitler's Germany said: "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak out for me."
Be sure to speak out, before the legitimate sporting use of your .22 is on the table.