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Weapon Is Legislative Target

Shooting sprees from Littleton, Colo., to Los Angeles have put gun control back at the top of the national agenda.

Now in Washington, there's a move to ban a rifle that weighs about 28 pounds and fires ammunition as big as a man's hand, reports CBS News Correspondent Russ Mitchell on This Morning.

The .50-caliber rifle is designed to fire armor-piercing shells and take out tanks and land mines. Civilian owners, who use it mostly for competitive shooting, claim it is no threat to society.

Defenders, mainly people who are recreational or competitive shooters, say the gun is simply too large, unwieldy and expensive to be useful to criminals.

But under federal law, anyone who can legally purchase a rifle can buy one if age 18 or older. And Congressman Rod Blagojevich, D.-Illinois, representing Chicago's North Side, is proposing legislation to ban its sale to civilians in the United States.

Even though the .50-caliber rifle is one of the most powerful weapons available on the market, it is less regulated than a hand gun, he asserts.

Rep. Rod Blagojevich: proposing ban
Says Blagojevich: "To think the interest of a sportsman who wants to use the gun outweighs the need for public safety and keep[ing] that gun out of the hands of people who are more apt to want that gun."

He offers examples of people who would be dangerous with the weapon: drug traffickers, terrorists and doomsday cultists, such as David Koresh.

"The thought that this gun should be available to the general public when you consider what it can do is amazing to me," he says.

But James Schmidt, a board member of the .50 Caliber Shooters Association, says, "The .50-caliber rifle is not unlike someone who owns a Timex watch and wants a Rolex or someone who buys an expensive wine and decides to buy a more expensive wine for better quality."

"This firearm is a somewhat of a move up from the average rifle to a more long-range rifle, a more extreme-accuracy rifle for long distances," adds Schmidt, also the president of Arizona Ammunition, one of the main manufacturers of ammunition for this gun.

James Schmidt: argues for choice
A civilian who needs this gun is not any different than someone who wanta car that has a speedometer that goes 200 miles an hour, he says.

"You can't legally drive that fast in the United States on a public street, but you can own that car that can do that. This rifle is just exactly like that," he says.

Schmidt's association says it would hardly be the weapon of choice for a criminal. And he notes there has been no documented use of this gun in a crime: "They never have been used, not in one single solitary case."

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