Weaponry: .50 Caliber Rifle Crime

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-08-04.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                   offke 0especid   Invetstigations
      ._   _

                   August4,1999-          ,. :        --

                    The Honorable Henry A Waxman
                    Ranking Minority Member
                    Committee on Government Reform
                 ._ House of Representatives
                   The.Honorable Rod R. Blagojevich
                   House of Repr&en$at@es

                   Sijicr:   a                   *

                  As requested, ~ncloseclwith this letter is a copy of a briefing that OS1gave to
..,               represe+ives 0; the Houqe Commi$tee on Goyenunent Reform on July 15, 1999. At
                  that time, : peixkikd those present ‘& the r&.&s ofo& review concerning how .5(i
                  caliber semia$omatic rifles have been used in domestic and international crimmal
                  activity. Baaed on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and F’ireanns tracing inform&ion and
                  information OS1developed, we found that 30 caliber semiautomatic x-ill&sare linked
                  to potential assassins,terrorist groups, drug dealers, international drug ctils,
           ../    militiagroups,andsreligiouscult.

                  We will make copies of this letter available to others on request. If you have any   ’   ‘,
                  questions, ple& contact Assistant Director Ron MaIfi at (202) 512-6722..

                  Acting Ass&ant Comptroller.General
                    for Special Investigations


           I                                                                .

                                      BRIEFING PAPER
              Criminal Activity Assuciated~with 30 Caliber Semiautomatic Rifles
    .     -
    For the House Committee on Government Reform

        c nuTER~ws                                   _-

              Law Enforcement Agencies - ATF, FBI, U.S. Customs Service, Department
                                         of Justice, Indiana State Police, West Virginia State
    .                                    Police, Los Angeles Police Department, Royal
              . _                        Canadian   Mounted Police

              Ai+ .r;Ocaliber &+automatic   rifles assbciated with criminal activrty’?.,


          Our investigation revealed that .59 caiiber semiautomatic rifles have been linked to
          domestic and international criminalactivity. We have established a nexus to terrorist
          groups, outlaw motorcycle gangs,international drug cartels, domestic drug dealers,
          religious cults, militia groups, potential assassins,and violent criminals.


         The most pOpular $0 caliber semiautomatic rifle is the Barrett &de1 82A1,
         manufactured by +rrett Fire-.         Dev$?ped in the early 198(xs,it came into wide
         use by U.S. military forces duting the Gulf War and was primarily used against long-
         range targets, such as vehicles, aircraft, and bunkers U.S. military explosive

         All branches of the U.S. military, some U.S. law enforcement wencies, and numerous
         foreign miMary units currently use the Model 82Al.

         According to Bureau.of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fireamm (ATF) records, Barrett
         reported mauufacturing and selIing 2,839 rifles in the domestic (civilian) market.
         excluding rifles sdd to U.S. government agencies, between 1987and 1998. However.
         ATF records do not reflect the model number or caliber of the rifles Barrett
         manufactured or sold. (ATF admits that the forms used to collect data from firearms
         manufacnwrs lead to some confusion, and inaccurate reporting) According to
         Ban-ett Firearms literature and available material on the Internet, Barrett only
         manufoct;utwl.50 caliber semiautomatic or bolt-action rifles tip to 1998,when it
         introduced Model 98, a .338 semiautixnatic tie.    EIarrett FIrearms refused to
         cooperate with our inquiry. Therefore, the ,exact number of 50 caliber semiautomatic
         ri!Ies sold in the domestic civilian market cannot be detentLied.

    2                                                        GAOK)SI-99-1       SF1 30 Callbor   Rlfh Crima
      EnclosureI                                                                              .

                ATP routinely conducts gun traces for law enforcement agencies. The fact that a
                trace hssbeen conducted does not necessarily mean that the firearm was involved in
                criminal actitity.

                ATP provided OS1with a list of 36 tirearm trace requests generated between
                November 1!492and Mardh 1999concerning 56 caliber rifies. However, 2 of the
                requests were duplicates, leaving 26 separate weapons on which traces were
                conducted. All of the traces involved Darrett SOcaliber rifles, of which 27 were the
                semiautomatic model &ZAl. One trace request appearedto involve a Barrett model
                96, but effortsto.develop additional information
                                                        -        on this-trace were unsuccessful.

            Of the 27 traces involving Barrett semiautomatic model 82Al rifles, we found that 18
            were associated with crimina! activity and 3 were not associated with criminal
            activity. ‘No determination could bemade regarding 6 t&es.

            ln some cases, we found that although the criminal activity involved more than one
            56 caliber semiautomatic rifle, the law enforcement agencyhad initiated a trace on
            only one firearm.                                                                    -
“‘.‘,          ;                               ,....
            We also developed information on two criminal cases involving 50 caliber
            semiautomatic titles not reported in the ATF’ tracing information. The Barrett model
            S&U was the weapon identified in both cases.

                                                  use of 50 p                 .           .

            The followingpending&ses        were identified:                      I
           ,,.Alleg Castro Assassination Plot - The U.S. Attorney in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is

               prosecuting seven Cuban-AmeMuts who have been charged in a plot to
               m           Cuban President FMel Castro during a 1997visit to Margarita, an
              island off,the coast of Venexuela. ?Lvo 56 c&her semiautomatic rifles seized
              from the defendants were to be used during the assassination.
         l    Terrorist OrganM&ons and Drug Carte&sAcquiring .56 Caliber Semiautomatic
              Rifles - Invest@ttons are currently being conducted by federal iaw enforcement
              agencies involving the smuggling of 50 caliber semiautomatic rifles-purchased
              legally in the United States-to overseas locations by terrorist groups. Another
              mvesQ+ion is tageting the movement of 50 caliber semiautomatic riflesfrom
        l     lllegalAlienStockpilinsWeaporrs-InacaseinNevadaanillegalalienamasseda
              large quantity of weapoIIs, inchiding two 56 caliber semiautomatic rifles. The
              weapons were recovered following the execution of a search warrant.
        The following closed cases were identified:

        l         Religious Cult - In 1989,two members of a church, described by ATP as a
                  doomsday religious cult, were arrested and charged with federal firearms
                  violations. The church followers had built underground bunkers in Gardner,
                  Montana, to await the end of the world. The two suspects had used false

  3                                                               QAoms4s-1       SR so c8libef   Rifh Crime
    EnclosukI                                                                         1

             ider&cation to purchase hundreds of fkarms, including 10 50 caliber
             Seniiautomatic r&s and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
        0    Tax, pO$esters - In a 1996case in Georgia, ATF and Internal Revenue Service
             agents arksted a survivalist/tax protest& living under an assumed identity. Using
            -false identification, he had purchased over I15 firearms, including 2.50 caliber
             semiautomatic rifles. Agents seizedthese weapons; over 100,OC rounds of
             ammunition; silencers; qd over $400,000in go!d Krugerrands, jewelry, and cash.
             In another 1996case, this time in Louisiana, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
             agents arrested a white supremacist/tax protester who fled across state lines to
             avoid paying child support- The subject confronted the arresting agents with a
             shotgun. A standoff ensued for a number of days and the subject eventually
             surrendered without loss of life. Agents recovered over 40 firearms from the
             subject’s residence, including a .50 ca&ber semiautomatic rifle.
             Drug Dealers - hi casesin California, Missouri, and Indiana, iaw enforcement
             officers exvuting search warrants recovered 30 caliber.semiautomatic rifles in
             the possession of drug dealers.
             Mentally Ill Individual - In a 1998case in Michigan, an apparently mend& i!:1
            subject used a rifle to shoot and kill a loc$ police officer. Following the subject’s
             arrest, police recovered over 15firearms from hik residence, including a 50
             caliber semiautomatic . rifle. He was aQleto purchase these   w.eapons legally
            ‘kaus;e hehaa.hdprioirriniii;alrecod*                     ”             -.
            Mexican Drug Cartel Multiple Homicide - The ~XSAngeles Police Department, at
            the reqtiizst of Mexican authorities, requested that ATF trace a SO caliber
            semiautomatic rifle in October 1996. It was determined that the weapon was
            purchased legally in Wyoming. The weapon; along with ovfir ,100AKA7s, was
            recovered by Mi+anauthorities        at the sceneof a multiple homicide. involving a.
            @&t.&t wkh drug cartel members in Sinaloa,Mexico.
            Stolen Weapon - ATF in Houston arrested a subject for .possessionof a -50 caliber
            semiautomatic ritle that had beenstolen from the legitimate owner who’resided in
            MO&                :                                         ., -
            Militia Group in Canada- In l!X%,the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recovered
            one 50 caliber semiautomatic rifle allegedly smuggled into Canada from the
            United States by a militia group from Texas.
            Militia Group in West Vll       - A member of the Mountaineer Militia in’ West
            Vll      was armsted in a plot to bomb a FBI office in Clarksburg, West Virginia
            In a subczequent search of his home, agents recovered one .50 caliber
,           semiautomatic rifle and numerow other firearms.
            Branch,Davidians at Waco - According to ATF, the B’ranchDavidians at Waco
            !hed a 50 caliber semiautomatic rifle at the ATF agents attempting to exkcute a
            search waRBnt at their compound in Waco, Texas. During the investigation, ATF
            suspected that Vernon Wayne Howell, aka David Koresh, had acquired 50 caliber
            rifles. ATF therefore requested from the Department of Defense Bradley Fighting
            Vehicles, which were believed to have sufficient armor to withstand $0 caliber
            fke. Those vehicles were to be used during the execution of the search warrant.
            However, according to the ‘Report of the Department of the Treasury -
            Investigation of Vernon Wayne Howell + known as David Koresh,” ATF did not
            *usethe armored vehicles during the execution of the search warrant. Four agents
            were killed.

                                                           GAomSCQ9.15R     .5oc8liberRineCrime
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