50-caliber rifle at center of opposing forces in N.J.

 Brian Miller, with the gun violence prevention group Heeding God's Call, displays a disabled 50-caliber rifle at a Statehouse news conference Friday. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Brian Miller, with the gun violence prevention group Heeding God's Call, displays a disabled 50-caliber rifle at a Statehouse news conference Friday. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Gun violence-prevention groups are urging Gov. Chris Christie to sign a bill passed by the Legislature that would ban the possession of 50-caliber weapons.

While 50-caliber automatic rifles already are banned in New Jersey, single bolt action versions of the weapon are legal.

The weapon is accurate to at least a mile and fires 4-inch bullets that can ignite rail tank cars and chemical plants, said Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call.

“A gun that can do that kind of damage is totally inappropriate anywhere, but particularly in a state that has so many those materiel targets that this gun is made to destroy including passenger aircraft,” Miller said Friday.

Gun rights groups are urging Christie to veto the bill.

Frank Fiamingo of the Second Amendment Society says the 50-caliber rifle has never been used in a crime in New Jersey. He says the few people who own such a weapon are hobbyists who use it for target practice at specific ranges.

That worries New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel who says that gun has the potential to cause serious environmental harm.

“That concern that we have is that with a gun this powerful with military ordnance, whether it’s deliberate or by accident, they’re vulnerable,” he said. “Someone who could just be having fun in the woods shoot one of these things and a mile away it could hit a tanker truck.”

California is the only state that has banned the long-range weapon.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.