For Sen. Feinstein, Gunwalker Still an Excuse to Push Gun Control

On Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein used a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Operation Fast and Furious to advocate for gun control:

“My concern, Mr. Chairman, is there’s been a lot said about Fast and Furious, and perhaps mistakes were made, but I think this hunt for blame doesn’t really speak about the problem,” Feinstein said during the Tuesday hearing. “And the problem is, anybody can walk in and buy anything, .50-caliber weapons, sniper weapons, buy them in large amounts, and send them down to Mexico. So, the question really becomes, what do we do about this?”

“I’ve been here 18 years,” Feinstein continued. “I’ve watched the BATF get beaten up at every turn on the road. And, candidly, it’s just not right.”

"The problem" that the California Democrat wants to gloss over is that agents of the federal government, acting under orders from officials and appointees from the Obama administration, walked more than 2,020 firearms to the Sinaloa cartel, and now they refuse to say who concocted the plot, who signed off on it, or what the real purpose of the operation was. Operation Fast and Furious is just one of ten gunwalking operations in five states, including at least one operation in the Midwest that supplied weapons to domestic criminal gangs.

Senator Feinstein has long had an irrational interest in large-caliber, long-range firearms. She specifically mentioned .50-caliber weapons and "sniper weapons" during the hearing, even though these prohibitively expensive and specialized firearms are almost never used in crimes.

In 2007, Feinstein introduced S. 1331: Long-Range Sniper Rifle Safety Act of 2007 in an attempt to have .50 BMG rifles classified as "destructive devices." The bill died in committee.

The senator's press release claimed at the time:

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), today introduced legislation to regulate the transfer and possession of .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles, which have extraordinary firepower and range (more than a mile with accuracy, with a maximum distance of up to four miles). These combat-style weapons are capable of bringing down airliners and helicopters that are taking off or landing, puncturing pressurized chemical storage facilities, and penetrating light armored personnel vehicles and protective limousines.

The senator and her allies claim that these rifles are capable of bringing down airliners and helicopters. That is possible on a theoretical level. Yet a goose getting sucked into an engine is a far more realistic threat to air safety.

To date, there has never been a .50 BMG rifle used to down an aircraft in the United States, and only one incident in Mexico where a .50 BMG rifle was able to hit a slow and low-flying government helicopter -- forcing it to land, not crash.

The simple fact: .50 BMG rifles do not fire explosive shells, so are no more lethal than any other rifle caliber for aircraft.

This is the rough difference between the diameter of a .50-caliber bullet (left) and the extremely common .30-caliber rifle (right):

The larger diameter of the .50-caliber round is hardly significant when you're discussing the skin of an aircraft, and is more than offset by the fact that .50 BMG rifles have a very limited magazine capacity and mobility. The greatest potential difference is that a .50 BMG rifle may expend greater energy than a smaller round, but most of the energy will be retained by the bullet as it simply punches through the aircraft like a tiny cookie cutter and continues downrange.

As for armored vehicles, chemical storage tanks, and train cars, well, that seems to be simple fantasy as well:

When asked about the alleged threat of .50cal rifles to his railcars, Mr. Darymple said that they have long tested their cars against almost every form of firearm, to include .50BMG and larger. When asked what happens when a .50 hits one of his tanks he said with a shrug: "It bounces off." He went on to point out that railcars are designed to survive the force of derailing, and collision with other railcars at travel speeds. By comparison, the impact of a bullet, any bullet, is like a mosquito bite.