Almost 50 years after Charles Whitman shot and killed 16 people and wounded another 32 on campus, the sniper rifle used in the infamous shooting is up for auction online.
According to the Texas Gun Traders website, the Remington 700 rifle, Whitman’s primary weapon in the shooting spree, has a starting bid of $25,000. The seller has chosen to stay anonymous, but Donald Weiss, the mediator in the sale, said he has received multiple offers for the rifle so far. The rifle has appeared in four ads on the Texas Gun Traders website since Sept. 17 and has accumulated more than 16,000 online views in total.
“This rifle is probably going to be sold by next week,” Weiss said.
Whitman’s rifle, along with the rest of his firearms, originally went on sale to the public when the Austin Police Department put the items up for auction in 1967.
The current owner acquired the Remington rifle after a series of purchases. Gary Lavergne, author of “A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders,” said the firearm’s serial number proves it is authentic.
Similar to past sales of the rifle, this auction has garnered negative attention. Lavergne said he believes the auction of Whitman’s rifle is in “poor taste” and that the firearm should not be treated as a historical artifact.
“It wasn’t used by a historical figure as much as it was used by an individual with a huge ego who wanted to make a name for himself,” Lavergne said. “One of the tragedies of this is that he succeeded. He has made a name for himself, and he used that weapon to do it.”
Weiss said the bidders would not want to purchase the rifle for its historical significance but rather for its value as a collector’s item.
“[The auction of the rifle] was strictly for collector value because there are a lot of collectors in the state who are interested in that firearm,” Weiss said.
As far as how the auction of the rifle may affect those impacted by the 1966 shooting, Weiss said he is aware of the impact Whitman’s actions have on the University today and that the seller’s intentions were not to hurt anyone.
Lavergene said he respected any individual’s right to purchase or sell the firearm but said he doesn’t comprehend the allure behind the item.
“I don’t doubt the right of people to buy artifacts to buy them and sell them if they want to sell them,” Lavergne said. “I don’t understand why someone would attach so much value to an instrument that hurt so many people and that hurt people to this very day.”
Weiss said he heard the University could be interested in purchasing the firearm but said the University has not contacted him. Ben Wright, a spokesman at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, said the center has no plans to bid on the item.