Goons With Guns Over Gotham

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Just what the trigger-happy NYPD needs: Barrett .50 caliber rifles. Mounted in helicopters, no less.

Three of the cops’ choppers will boast the phenomenally powerful rifles by year’s end, WCBS-TV2 reported last week. The City bought these behemoths four years ago, after the 9/11 attacks. Such stockpiling met with a yawn and a shrug because most New Yorkers don’t know a pistol from a pea-shooter. And so WCBS helpfully described the gun: “It is one of the world’s most powerful combat weapons. The Barrett .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle can hit a target from more than a mile away…. It can do a lot of damage and has the potential to take down a plane and could easily disable a boat.”

A gun that awesome demands attention, and politicians have obliged. They’ve waged war against it since its invention 22 years ago. So have their cohorts in the media. 60 Minutes did a hatchet job on it last March — by staggering coincidence, the same month Congress considered legislation to restrict the gun’s sales — in which it called the .50 caliber “the Rolls Royce of sniper rifles. It’s a big gun, a favorite of armies around the world…. It is, without a doubt, the most powerful weapon you can buy…. A Senate report said that a bullet from a .50-caliber rifle, even at 1.5 miles, crashes into a target with more energy than a bullet fired at point-blank range from Dirty Harry’s famous .44 Magnum.” [Note to gun enthusiasts: kindly remember that this is 60 Minutes I'm quoting, that paragon of journalistic accuracy and integrity that gave us the Alar scare. Please do not deluge me with email correcting their errors and distortions: my server can't handle it.]

Politicians are united in their conviction that only they should own such monsters. Horror seizes them at the thought of .50 caliber rifles floating around out here among us serfs, especially after Waco, when the Branch Davidians had the temerity to fire theirs. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) waxed hysterical to MSNBC: “This kind of weapon can blow up a limousine or a helicopter, can take out a vehicle, armored vehicle, maybe even a mile away. It can shoot through seven buildings!”

That may be, but “nobody has ever been killed by these things,” as even Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center had to admit. (Dedicated to gun-owner control, the Center objects to “firearms violence” unless it’s Leviathan’s.) That’s because, unlike government, private folks use the .50 caliber exclusively for sport and hunting. Their tremendous recoil and explosive impact make them impractical for self-defense, given that you probably don’t want to splatter intruder all over yourself or blow out a wall of your house.

But Waxman’s a weak wuss. No doubt referring to his usual means of transport, he quavered, “It can cut through a limousine, and destroy the people in it. I think we oughtta find some kind of way to regulate the sale of these weapons.”

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) complied when he introduced the aforementioned legislation. He testified, “[These rifles] are so accurate, so powerful and so deadly that they should only be used in a military setting.”

Surprisingly, given that the guns were then sitting in the NYPD’s warehouse, the City’s Police Commissioner agreed. Ray Kelly told 60 Minutes: “It is clearly a weapon of war, a round to be used in a wartime situation. It’s appropriate for the military. The effective range is about 2,000 yards. It’s a very formidable weapon…. It would be a weapon that could do a lot of damage — no question about that.”

Yep. The only question is on what and whom the NYPD will train these “very powerful weapon[s] that are “appropriate for the military” rather than parking violators and jaywalkers.

Cops should never be trusted with weapons, especially weapons this powerful and especially cops under Kelly. When this lifelong thug took a break as NYPD Commissioner to become head of the Customs Service, a lifelong champion of liberty wrote about him for the Washington Times. Said James Bovard on March 11, 1999, “Kelly’s record…does not fill one with confidence. Mr. Kelly was police chief during the revelations of the worst police scandals in decades. Mr. Kelly initially responded to a special commission’s exposs of police brutality and corruption by launching a public relations campaign, papering local buses, phone booths and billboards with posters proclaiming ‘New York City Cops Care.’”

Perhaps the fortified choppers will trail banners emblazoned with the same slogan. That should reassure us serfs down below.

Naturally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to use these cannon against terrorists, not New Yorkers protesting the war in Iraq, say, or Dis Honor’s continuing crusade against tobacco. Choppers would never hover overhead to estimate the size of the crowd and “accidentally” strafe it, would they? As Dis Honor solemnly intoned to WCBS-TV2, "We know that we live in a dangerous world, and we will do everything we can to protect this city.”

Now, as any gun-deprived New Yorker can tell you, Dis Honor isn’t interested in protecting the City. If he were, he’d caterwaul about its tyrannical gun laws and move heaven and earth to repeal them. What Mike really means is that he will do everything he can to enhance the NYPD’s potential to kill, maim and destroy anyone deemed a threat to Our Masters.

Thus, Mike told The New York Sun, “”We have bought a lot of equipment since 9/11 that we would never have thought about buying before 9/11.” Ever suspect the “9/11 Defense” is used just as often to excuse just as much evil as was the Nuremberg Defense? Dis Honor added, “We live in a different world.”

Or at least Mike and the NYPD are trying their hardest to make it that way.

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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