Wednesday, October 09, 2002

The href="">Violence Policy Center,
as one might have expected, is attempting to make political hay out of the
DC Sniper attacks. And as
had been feared by some here, their approach to this involves nebulous definitions
of what constitutes a "high-powered" cartridge...


Snipers—Predictable Consequence of Gun Industry Marketing


According to Tom Diaz, Senior Policy Analyst at the Violence Policy
Center and author of several studies examining sniper culture and their
weapons, including One
Shot, One Kill: Civilian Sales of Military Sniper Rifles

The recent outbreak of long-range sniper attacks in Maryland, Virginia,
and the District of Columbia exposes two long-term trends in gun industry

  • Mass marketing of military and military-style weapons, including
    assault rifles and sniper rifles and equipment, to the civilian market.

    The .223 Remington rifle round that has been positively identified as
    the round used in five of the shootings, for example, was originally
    developed as an experimental military cartridge for the Armalite AR-15
    assault rifle, which was later adopted by the U.S. Army as the M-16.
    The round is widely used in such popular civilian semi-automatic assault
    rifles as the Colt AR-15, Armalite M15A2, and various models of Bushmaster
    carbines and rifles, among others.

  • The most recent industry trend has been the marketing of 50 caliber
    sniper rifles, which fire the largest bullet legal for general civilian
    sale (more than twice the width of the .223 Remington) accurately over
    distances as great as 2,000 yards. The 50 caliber round is capable of
    penetrating light armor.

  • Cultivation of a sniper subculture within the gun community.
    A collateral aspect of the marketing of military weapons has been the
    encouragement of a sniper subculture in the United States. This includes
    the marketing of books, paraphernalia, training, and assorted gear.
    Thus, although the rifle used in these shootings has not yet been identified,
    the attacks are consistent with a clearly growing subculture.

Although the perpetrator of these attacks and the weapon used is not
yet known, we do know that the round being used is an example of the transfer
of military weapons development to the civilian market, and the attacks
themselves are consistent with a sniper subculture encouraged by the gun
industry at large.

As a bit of
background, the VPC's Josh Sugarman once stated that they spend a great
deal of time studying "gun magazines". (As I recall, "Soldier of Fortune"
was one of the publications he mentioned.) These people pour over such publications
looking for terms of art they can turn to their own purposes. "High-powered"
and "Sniper" are two of the latest. "Assault weapon" was a previous example
of a term hijacked from firearms publications. (A corruption of "assault

class="484112805-09102002">They do this, as they have admitted,
to confuse those who are not familiar with firearms. "Assault weapons",
which we shooters knew to be garden variety semi-auto rifles, were
spun by the VPC to look like machine guns. Reality didn't matter to the
uneducated; only perception mattered. And now we see them attempting to
spin the .223 into a .50 BMG! It's just a matter of time before their spin
machine puts the finishing touches on the term "sniper subculture". What
will come out of the spin cycle will likely bear an uncanny resemblance
to competition shooters and hunters.