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Lying from the Rooftops
How VPC distorts the record to link gun makers to bin Laden.

by Sean Oberle

October 9, 2001

According to Violence Policy Center (VPC),

“The U.S. gun industry sold at least twenty-five 50 [sic] caliber sniper rifles to Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terror network.”

This is a deliberate attempt to make people believe something that is not true. Where I come from, that’s considered a lie.

Read that VPC quote again. Do you envision some gun industry executive shipping a load of .50s to bin Laden? Do you assume that it took place within the last year or two? If so, you’ve been misled by Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst. He wrote the propaganda faux-study titled “Voting From the Rooftops” that makes this allegation.

The truth: In 1989 or before, a man named Essam al Ridi helped to ship 25 Barrett .50 caliber rifles to Afghanistan for use against the Soviets. It’s not really clear what year al Ridi actually transferred the weapons. In his testimony in United States of America v. Usama bin Laden (, al Ridi explains that the Afghan rebels to whom he provided the weapons were having trouble sighting the weapons, so in 1989 he went to help them. In any event, the sale was at least 12 years ago.

Al Ridi's testimony is the source of VPC’s allegation. Diaz is fully aware that this was a case of arming those who at the time not only were fighting the main enemy of the United States but were trying to expel a ruthless invader from their homeland. Diaz, however, also knows that many of these Afghan rebels later turned into anti-American terrorists under bin Laden’s leadership, and he thinks he can smear “the gun industry” with a bit of equivocation.

It is true enough that these 25 American-made rifles very well may be in the hands of terrorists now, and that is bad -– although, for all we know, the rifles are in the hands of the Northern Alliance or are long since destroyed or damaged beyond use.

However, to imply that there is some sort of collusion between gun makers and terrorists borders on slanderous. In my opinion, it would be slanderous had Diaz named someone rather than the nebulous “gun industry” as having sold the weapons to terrorists, but I’ll leave it up to Barrett’s lawyers to decide if that company has a case based on VPC mentioning its name in the same paragraph that it made the allegation at the top of this article.

If you have any doubt about Diaz’s goal of making this seem like “the gun industry” is in collusion with terrorists, consider the following statement by him in the VPC press release announcing the propaganda:

"We can be shocked, but not surprised that the gun industry would sell these dangerous military weapons to Al Qaeda.” (See

Indeed, Tom, I stopped being shocked or surprised at what spews out of your organization. I’m just nauseous at how dirty I feel after reading your propaganda.

To read about other lies and distortions from the "Violence Policy Center," go here:

Sean Oberle's archives can be accessed here: