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“A Shoestring Is A Machinegun”

By The Liberty Crew
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership

No kidding. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has declared that an actual shoestring can be a machinegun. As explained in its September 2004 letter to a citizen, BATFE’s Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) made this magical ruling:

In 1996, the FTB examined and classified a 14-inch long shoestring with a loop at each end. The string was attached to the cocking handle of a semiautomatic rifle and was looped around the trigger and attached to the shooter’s finger. The device caused the weapon to fire repeatedly until finger pressure was released from the string. Because this item was designed and intended to convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun, BATFE determined that it was a machinegun as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b).

Make no mistake: the BATFE says that the shoestring itself is a machinegun. How could that ruling make any sense? The National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b), defines “machinegun” as:

Any weapon that shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

So far, no surprises. But § 5845(b) also defines “machinegun” to include:

...any part designed and intended solely and exclusively...for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun ...

The shoestring, looped around the trigger, the cocking handle of the rifle, and the shooter’s finger, was “designed and intended” to convert the rifle into a machinegun. Therefore, according to BATFE, the shoestring itself is a machinegun.

Watch the Word Wizardry

Did you catch BATFE’s word trick? Keep in mind that phrase from § 5845(b) quoted above: “any part intended and designed solely and exclusively for use in converting ...” Consider these facts:

  1. A shoestring is not intended and designed solely and exclusively for converting a firearm into a machinegun. A shoestring’s primary use is to fasten shoes. Shoestring manufacturers do not intend the shoestrings to be used for any other purpose whatsoever.
  2. The fellow who rigged up that shoestring to operate the rifle’s trigger did not “design” the shoestring. The shoestring came ready-made for use in shoes, not in guns.
  3. Because the shoestring was not intended or designed to convert a rifle into a machinegun, the shoestring is not a machinegun.
  4. Now look again at the BATFE letter’s wording (above). The letter says the shoestring “was designed and intended to convert a semiautomatic rifle in a machinegun.” Notice the letter does not say the shoestring was designed and intended “solely and exclusively” for that use.
  5. Thus, the BATFE deliberately ignored the limiting language “solely and exclusively.” To be illegal under the § 5845(b), a modification must be “designed and intended solely and exclusively” to convert a rifle into a machinegun. The BATFE deliberately omitted the “solely and exclusively”
    phrase so they could illegalize a shoestring.

“Yeah, but ...”

But wait – isn’t the “loop at the end” of the shoestring a “design” that was “intended” for the illegal purpose? Maybe so, but a looped shoestring could have other purposes, including extracting “baby teeth” by looping one end around a tooth and the other around a doorknob. A looped shoestring does not have a sole and exclusive purpose. A looped shoestring differs greatly from any of the actual components of a firearm. Most firearm components are made for the specific, sole and exclusive purpose of fitting into and assisting in the operation of the firearm. Those components just don’t have any other uses.

When § 5845(b) uses the term “parts,” that term reasonably means the machined and crafted parts of a firearm or conversion kit. Paper clips, shoestrings and other common household materials should not be defined as “machineguns.” Judges and bureaucrats should not strain legal language to maximize the number of things that are illegal and to punish as many people as possible.

Is BATFE Your Federal Friend?

The shoestring-machinegun example shows how far BATFE will stretch to prosecute “the gun laws on the books.” Now you should see the videotape of BATFE experts test firing a rifle they claimed was converted into a machinegun. BATFE said they proved a machinegun conversion, but a real gun expert proved that the rifle was not a converted machinegun – it was a dangerously defective semi-auto!

Get your copy of the BATFE video (VHS or DVD) for $17.76 (postage paid). Show it to fellow shooters and gun clubs. With it you’ll also receive FREE a copy of the freedom booklet “Is America Becoming a Police State?” (a $3.00 value), and copies of the BATFE confiscation report and Len Savage’s expert witness report on this outrageous case.

You need to know what the BATFE will do to prosecute you. Visit or call (800) 869-1884 to obtain your copy of this revealing video.

Copyright 2005, by Aaron Zelman. Permission is granted to reproduce this article in full, provided that JPFO contact information, website and phone number are included. J.P.F.O., Inc. * P.O. Box 270143 * Hartford, WI 53027 * (800) 869-1884 * (800) 869-1884.

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