Just how often do .50 caliber weapons get used in crime?

This report got me to wondering about that.

NJ Gov. Phil Murphy Pushes Ammo Purchase Database, .50 Caliber Rifle Ban
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is fighting gun crime in his state by calling for a database of ammunition purchasers and banning .50 caliber rifles.

So I did a quick search and discovered that the anti-rights Violence Policy Center has a list, “Criminal Use of the 50 Caliber Sniper Rifle”. It goes back to 1989, and was last updated in 2019. They list 51 cases.

51 criminal uses in 30 years doesn’t sound like much. But it’s even better.

  • Only ten cases were criminal use of a .50 cal.
  • Of those ten, one occurred in Mexico.
  • Another one was the Branch Davidians at Waco. I’d call that self defense, not criminal use.
  • All the other cases were unlawful possession, unlawful transfer, or the gun was found when the person was busted for something else; not use of the firearm.
  • One was a stashed weapon found in Canada.

But even if we take the prosecution’s argument about the Branch Davidians, we have ten criminal uses in 30 freaking years. An average of once every three years. In two countries. Let’s drop that Mexico murder (by a cop, no less); NINE cases. In thirty years.We’ve all heard how deadly .50s are, right? In the 9 US cases, we have three people wounded in two cases, and four people killed in three cases. One of those was a double murder, but it’s not really clear that the .50 that inflicted the deaths because he also used three other guns including an SKS. No casualties listed for the other four cases.

Oh, one of those terrible crimes that didn’t result in injury, fatal or otherwise? The crime was starting a wildfire by stupidly plinking with incendiary rounds. Not the sort of thing you’d expect to hear about from the VIOLENCE Policy Center, eh? But they’ve got to get those numbers up somehow, I suppose.

30 years. Three wounded. Four killed.

That definitely calls for regulation. Especially in New Jersey where… oh. Just once case in New Jersey; felon in possession, not used.

So maybe that doesn’t call for a .50 cal rifle ban, Murphy.

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2A advocate, writer, firearms policy & law analyst, general observer of pre-apocalyptic American life.

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