Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Allows Sale of Handgun Disguised as a Pen Despite Law Enforcement Warning

For Release:  Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Washington, DC – The U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is allowing the sale to the general public of a small-caliber handgun disguised as a pen – despite the clear public safety threat such “pen guns” represent – the Violence Policy Center (VPC) warned today.

The public safety threat posed by the Stinger Pengun is made clear in an October 2002 “Officer Safety Bulletin” regarding the weapon issued by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations based at Andrews Air Force Base. The national alert was apparently distributed to government, military, and local law enforcement agencies. More recently, in August 2003, the Department of Homeland Security warned that terrorists might attempt to use ordinary items to conceal explosives or weapons�which is the exact purpose of the pen gun.

Manufactured by Stinger Manufacturing Corporation in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, the Stinger Pengun is a single-shot pistol disguised as a pen. It is 5.6 inches long, weighs only five ounces when empty, and retails for $250. It is currently available in 17 and 22 caliber, and the company’s web site (www.stingerpengun.com) promises that more calibers are “Coming Soon!” A past advertisement on the web site states that the gun “Transforms From A `Pen’ To A Legal Pistol In 2 Seconds.” Promised soon-to-be marketed accessories include an 18-inch “sniper barrel” and attachable “heart dagger.” Stinger also manufactures the “Survivor Knifegun,” a handgun concealed in a pocket knife with blade. The $375 “knife gun” promoted as “The Pistol With A Sharp Edge is 3.7 inches long, 1.09 inches wide, and weighs 12 ounces. [See reverse for pictures of both.] According to documents obtained by the Violence Policy Center from ATF under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Stinger was incorporated in February 2002 by Canadian citizen Marc Lefebvre.

VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann states, “ATF and the Justice Department have been put on notice that the Stinger Pengun represents a clear threat to public safety and law enforcement. ATF clearly has the authority and legal responsibility to reclassify Stinger’s pen and knife guns under federal law to tightly restrict them and should do so immediately.”

According to Stinger, both guns have been approved for sale by ATF and under federal law are sold with only the same restrictions that apply to standard handguns. Advertising on Stinger’s web site boasts, “The Stinger Pengun is the only legal pengun in the world” and promises that the gun opens up “A whole new world of possibilities.” This is in spite of the fact that, according to ATF, under federal law “Gadget-type firearms and `pen’ guns which fire fixed ammunition” are classified as an “Any Other Weapon” (AOW) under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and come under the NFA’s strict licensing and registration regimen. To purchase an “Any Other Weapon,” the buyer must go through an extended and extremely detailed background check, register the weapon, and receive approval from local law enforcement. ATF distinguishes the Stinger Pengun and Knifegun from other such weapons and treats them as standard handguns simply because in order to be fired, the “grip,” or handle, of the gun must be angled to its barrel [see below].

“This is a distinction without a difference,” adds Sugarmann. “It is almost unfathomable the depths to which the Ashcroft Justice Department will sink to carry out the bidding of the gun industry and its lobbying allies. Stinger’s pen and knife guns can be re-classified tomorrow to protect public safety on the street, in our offices, and in the air. And if the Ashcroft Justice Department truly cares about public safety, it will do so immediately.”


Stinger Pengun


Stinger Pengun with 18-inch Sniper Barrel


Stinger Knifegun


Stinger Knifegun “ready to fire”




About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Georgia Seltzer
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