Tennessee lawmakers choose sniper rifle as 'state gun'

One of Barrett's .50 caliber sniper rifles available at Carter Shooting Supply.

A resolution to make one of the most powerful military rifles the Tennessee state gun is now on Governor Bill Haslam's desk.

Wednesday, the state Senate passed a resolution to make the Tennessee-made Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle the official state gun.

It joins a long list of other honorary state symbols.

"State flower, state tree, we've even got a state rock," says Senator Todd Gardenhire.

The difference lies in how deadly the chosen symbol can be.

Gun safety group Violence Policy Center says this gun can "penetrate light armor, down helicopters, destroy commercial aircraft, and blast through rail-cars."

"It's said to be one of the most powerful guns out there," says Kristi Manning, owner of Carter Shooting Supply. They have one of the most basic models in their shop for $7,200. They're unable to shoot it inside their range, because the firearm is too powerful. "I would say it could probably do a good bit of damage. Probably makes a pretty big hole."

There are no regulations on the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, which critics argue, makes them too readily available.

"If you can pass a background check, it's just a regular sniper rifle," says Manning.

But should a firearm that already draws its own criticism represent the state of Tennessee?

Manning says most people who own these guns in our area are collectors, and have the money to spend on the rifle, plus $5 a bullet. Otherwise, she says they're mostly used in the military.

Gun safety advocates still argue that the gun's power could make it a formidable threat if it ends up in the wrong hands.

Senator Gardenhire replies, "Anything can be in the wrong hands."

Representative Gerald McCormick also voted in favor of the resolution.

"These .50 caliber guns are used by American snipers to kill terrorists, mostly in the Middle East, which I think is a good use of them. I did vote in favor of them, and I'm glad I did."

The only senator who opposed the resolution is Jeff Yarbro of Nashville.

He says he thinks it is inappropriate for the legislature to endorse a for-profit business, and there's more important work in the legislature to be done than naming an official state rifle.

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