This is a Barrett .50 caliber rifle. It can put a $5, 5.5-inch bullet through the engine block of an armored car from over a mile away, and it costs around $10,000. To hear the media tell it, this rich-person's toy is the scariest thing since box cutters met beards:
"Who needs a gun that is accurate to more than a mile, can down an airliner on takeoff or landing, and can penetrate steel plating? If you're the gun lobby and its friends in the firearms industry, the answer is simple: sportsmen! If you're law enforcement, the answer is equally simple: terrorists."
Craftvision / Vetta / Getty
Holy shit, Huffington Post, thanks for that heads up. But is it actually possible for a 10-round rifle to shoot a moving commercial aircraft down? Hell no. The NYPD actually holds several Barrett .50 caliber rifles for use against hijacked aircraft ... on the ground. Flying aircraft are incredibly difficult to hit. In World War II, the .50 caliber machine guns used by the Air Force averaged 11,000-plus rounds per kill. Yes, shooting a taxiing plane would cause a terrific amount of chaos. But you know what other rifles are capable of piercing a commercial jet's armor? Most of them.
This thing is roughly as bulletproof as your car.
But hey! This weapon is accurate at more than a mile away. Of course, it's worth noting that the longest sniper kill in history was from 1.5 miles away. In fact, it took from the entire history of guns in war to 2008 before any sniper confirmed a kill from one mile out. The Barrett probably is the Rolls Royce of sniper rifles, but you'd need to be literally one of the finest marksmen in human history to hit a target more than a mile out. The Barrett's inventor put it best: Fifty governments buy this weapon. If it could shoot down a plane, one of them would have tried.
Guns can be frightening things, but they're much scarier when you don't know a damn thing about them. Life isn't like an RPG, where better weapons automatically make you scarier. Ten thousand dollars worth of snub-nosed .38 six shooters have more potential for havoc than one dude working himself into a hernia with a 30-pound rifle.
This fits in a jacket pocket. The Barrett barely fits in a car.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
American exceptionalism is a key aspect of the gun control debate. Many firearm hobbyists see themselves as the only island of shooting culture in a sea of gun-grabbing Western nations. This is one of those weird areas where pro- and anti-gun people are already sorta in agreement. No matter whom you ask, we're an anomaly: either the lone country that lets people own murderguns ... or the one bastion of gun rights in a world gone mad. Either way, you don't see stores like this outside of America:
Best of New Orleans
This picture might not even be legal in the U.K.
Actually, this picture is of a store in Hamburg, Germany. Gun owners there face a strict licensing system that nonetheless allows regular shooters to own the same deadly black rifles that Americans are considered crazy for selling. In fact, German demand for the AR-15 was so high, a company named Schmeisser started building their own version, "to Teutonic standards."
Holy shit a collapsing stock -- SOMEBODY CALL THE REICHSTAG.
Germany actually places fourth on the world gun ownership charts. If shooting was the Billboard Top 100 list from 1969, they'd be the Rolling Stones. Like everything German, their gun laws are strict: High-caliber weapons are restricted from the young, and you have to prove you practice regularly to own any kind of firearm at all.
How about the pistol-packing hillbillies in this picture? They're Frenchmen, essentially hillbilly antimatter. Even in America, gun owners as a group don't (always) look like you'd expect. Women are the fastest-growing segment participating in shooting sports. And new gun buyers tend to be young, rather than ornery rascal-bound malcontents.
A gun owner, seen here being several decades younger than Ted Nugent.
Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images/Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty
If I could go back in time and punch one person square in the dick, it'd be the dude who invented the term "false flag." It's definitely a thing that has happened in history, but our craziest armed people have hit upon the general concept as the explanation for every mass shooting in America.
Alex Jones' Razor: Among competing hypotheses, the one blaming the government for mass murder is always right.
In the wake of the tragic Newtown shooting, decent humans reacted with shock, horror, and crying so much our keyboards needed replacing. Meanwhile, the worst people in the country rushed to gun stores, buying up ammo and spare AR-15s in preparation for the inevitable wave of gun bannings. And, again, there's a fucked-up logic to it. If you think the government's about to ban something you like, it makes sense to stock up.
Here's the thing: For whatever reason, America doesn't work that way. Fifty-seven percent of us supported stricter gun control laws in the immediate wake of the Newtown shootings. But by the time March 2013 swung around, only 47 percent of Americans supported more gun control. If you spend time on the Huffington Post, it might seem like Democratic voters are at their anti-gunniest point in history. But from 1991 to 2011, Democrats became less likely to support gun control, with support dropping from 53 percent to 43 percent during that time.
Hector Mata / AFP / Getty
It's not all John Kerry awkwardly holding shotguns like they're a cat about to shit on his chest.
So if all these shootings are "false flags" dreamt up by Obama to take our guns, they aren't working for shit. Oddly enough, gun control and gun violence are both at their lowest level in decades. In other words: The last time this few Americans were shooting each other, John F. Kennedy was president. It gets weirder. You know what else has been in free-fall for 50 years? The percentage of gun-owning Americans. So we have fewer gun owners, with the freedom to own whatever they want, and, crime-wise, we're living in Camelot 2.0. If we could just cut the number of gun owners in half and then arm them all with that rail rifle from Eraser, crime as we know it might come to an end.
I know correlation doesn't equal causation, but if we try real hard, can't it equal this for me?
Robert Evans heads up Cracked's personal experience team, as well as the workshop moderator team. If you'd like to give him money or you just have a whistle to blow, he can be reached here.