.50 Caliber Rifle Crime

OSI-99-15R: Published: Aug 4, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 4, 1999.

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Robert H. Hast
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on how .50 caliber semiautomatic rifles have been used in domestic and international criminal activity.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's investigation revealed that .50 caliber semiautomatic rifles have been linked to domestic and international criminal activity; (2) GAO has established a nexus to terrorist groups, outlaw motorcycle gangs, international drug cartels, domestic drug dealers, religious cults, militia groups, potential assassins, and violent criminals; (3) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) routinely conducts gun traces for law enforcement agencies; (4) the fact that a trace has been conducted does not necessarily mean that the firearm was involved in criminal activity; (5) ATF provided GAO with a list of 30 firearm trace requests generated between November 1992 and March 1999 concerning .50 caliber rifles; (6) however, 2 of the requests were duplicates, leaving 28 separate weapons on which traces were conducted; (7) all of the traces involved Barrett .50 caliber rifles, of which 27 were the semiautomatic model 82A1; (8) one trace request appeared to involve a Barrett model 90, but efforts to develop additional information on this trace were unsuccessful; (9) of the 27 traces involving Barrett semiautomatic model 82A1 rifles, GAO found that 18 were associated with criminal activity and 3 were not associated with criminal activity; (10) no determination could be made regarding 6 traces; (11) in some cases, GAO found that although the criminal activity involved more than one .50 caliber semiautomatic rifle, the law enforcement agency had initiated a trace on only one firearm; (12) GAO also developed information on two criminal cases involving .50 caliber semiautomatic rifles not reported in the ATF tracing information; and (13) the Barrett model 82A1 was the weapon identified in both cases.

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