Pen Guns, Ignorance, and the National Firearms Act

via USA Today:

Pen gun accident kills budding rap singer Steven Zorn had put the pen gun to his head and clicked before, apparently thinking it was jammed and would not work. But on the third try, the tiny silver pistol went off as the 22-year-old budding rap artist was drinking to celebrate an impending record deal. He died at a hospital. The Nov. 18 shooting at Zorn's home in this rural village of 2,000, about 50 miles northeast of Dayton, is believed to have been accidental, according to family, friends and law enforcement officials. "Steven had a career and his dreams all ahead of him," said Zorn's mother, Lisa McCoy-Horn. She said she wants lawmakers to outlaw pen guns, which are small-caliber, single-shot weapons that resemble pens.

Let's parse this tragedy, shall we? First, the headline:

Pen gun accident kills budding rap singer

When you put the barrel of a loaded gun to your head and pull the trigger three times... well, it isn't an accident. It is stupid. It is a tragic waste of a promising life. But it is no accident when a product works as designed. Let's read something else as well; the part that tells us why the media really cares:

"Steven had a career and his dreams all ahead of him," said Zorn's mother, Lisa McCoy-Horn. She said she wants lawmakers to outlaw pen guns, which are small-caliber, single-shot weapons that resemble pens. [my bold]

That sounds entirely reasonable. So reasonable, in fact, that seventy-one years ago Congress passed the National Firearms Act of 1934, which specifically mentions weapons such as pen guns in the classification of "any other weapon" (AOW), and makes them as highly-restricted by the law as machine guns, bazookas, and land mines. Pen guns are among the most restricted weapons in the country. It is doubtful, very doubtful, that Steven Dorn shot himself with a legal weapon that is as rare and restricted as anti-tank rifles. Had he been arrested with it on the street, he could have faced the federal felony charges of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison. Steven Zorn shot himself while drunk, after multiple attempts, with what in all likelihood was a highly illegal weapon. As tragic as this death is, the ignorance displayed by both the media and law enforcement officers regarding this case is a tragedy all its own. Crime Scene KC quotes Kansas City Police Capt. Rich Lockhart:

"We get officer safety bulletins on them periodically when we see them, just to remind officers that they are out there," Lockhart said. Are they legal? "It’s no different from a handgun or any other kind of gun like that," he said. "It’s a firearm, so if it’s concealed you have to have a permit in Missouri to have a concealed firearm, and you have to be of age."

Greg Reeves who writes Crime Scene KC, even links to a pen gun for sale on Guns America in an attempt to establish just how easy they are to get. Perhaps he should have read the fine print and explained what it means when an item such as this is restricted as "Class III weapons & are classified as AOW." Class III AOW weapons are very "different from a handgun or any other kind of gun like that." That the police and the journalists covering them are ignorant of the law scares me, and it should scare you, too. The Dayton Daily News ran a crusading anti-gun story about these firearms, as did CBS News, the Star-Tribune, among others who unquestioningly ran the Associated Press feed version of this story. It's too bad someone couldn't waste a few minutes on Google discovering that legally made and sold pen guns are about as common as legal anti-tank rifles on the streets of America. Of course, you wouldn't want to spoil a good tragedy, especially if it serves your political agenda. cross-posted to Confederate Yankee Blog