California is the first state to ban a powerful .50-caliber long-range rifle that gun control advocates say could easily fall into the hands of terrorists bent on assassination or shooting down an airplane, the New York Times says. Under the ban, which took effect on Jan. 1, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, distribute, or import a weapon known as the .50-caliber BMG, or Browning machine gun rifle, a single-shot weapon widely used by law enforcement officers, the military, and civilian sport shooters.
Gun rights advocates fear that the California law will prompt other states to follow. Enthusiasts are devising ways to alter the gun and so circumvent the law without breaking it. In the weeks before the law took effect, people rushed to buy the limited supplies of .50 BMG’s descended on gun shops throughout California. “We all think it’s the first step toward banning sniper rifles,” said Michael Fournier, owner of the Gun Exchange, a shop in San Jose. “They keep chipping away a little at a time. Eventually they’ll try to get them all.” A lawyer for the California Rifle and Pistol Association said that for the first time, gun control advocates had managed “to demonize” a firearm that never has been used to commit a crime in the U.S. But Daniel Vice of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said the weapon “could be used to shoot down an airplane. And we certainly don’t want to wait until a terrorist buys one before we ban it.”