Are Ghost Guns Illegal?
Ghost guns are untraceable, unregulated, and un-serialized firearms that are easy to assemble and use. Purchasers do not go through background checks and pay much less money for ghost guns than they would for lawful firearms. As such, it is not surprising that minors and convicted felony offenders ― two groups who are generally prohibited from possessing firearms ― often resort to using ghost guns for self-defense or in the commission of crimes.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that from 2016 to 2020, more than 23,000 un-serialized firearms were reported to have been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes — including in connection with 325 homicides or attempted homicides. That said, ghost guns pose a strong threat to public safety, but why haven’t law enforcement authorities done anything about it?
The fact of the matter is that federal firearms laws contain a loophole that essentially allows ghost guns to avoid regulation. This is because federal law currently defines “firearm” as:
- Any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive
- The frame or receiver of any such weapon
- Any firearm muffler or firearm silencer
- Any destructive device
However, federal firearms laws do not address who can purchase ghost gun kits or parts and how many kits or parts a person can purchase. That’s why ghost gun users have been able to escape prosecution for so long. Chose guns may be legal for more but this is about to change, as the federal government is now well aware of the popularity and threat of ghost guns in the United States.
To address these loopholes, the DOJ has proposed a rule that would seek to close the ghost gun loophole. The Department of Justice (DOJ) states that the prosed rule would modernize the definition of “frame or receiver” and help close a regulatory loophole associated with the un-serialized, privately-made firearms that are increasingly being found at crime scenes in the US, or “ghost guns.”
In general, those who have certain mental incapacities or were convicted of felonies or certain domestic violence offenses cannot legally possess, purchase, sell, distribute, or traffic firearms under federal law. Federal authorities recognize that criminals who are not allowed to possess firearms tend to get their hands on ghost guns instead, which is lawmakers aim to address the root of these issues by revising federal firearms laws. With this in mind, the proposed rule by the DOJ would have the following impacts once implemented:
- To help keep guns from being sold to convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers, the rule would clarify that retailers must run background checks before selling kits that contain the parts needed to readily make a gun at home
- To help law enforcement trace guns used in the commission of a crime, the proposed rule would require manufacturers to include a serial number on the firearm frame or receiver in easy-to-build firearm kits
- To help reduce the number of ghost guns in American, the rule would outline requirements for federally-licensed firearms dealers to have a serial number added to 3D printed guns or other un-serialized firearms that are taken into inventory
Who Cannot Possess a Gun in California?
In California, any person who meets one or more of the following criteria is prohibited from buying, owning, or possessing firearms or ammunition:
- Has a conviction for any misdemeanor listed in Penal Code section 29805
- Has a conviction for any felony
- Is addicted to the use of any narcotic drug
- Has been held involuntarily as a danger to self or others pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 8103
In addition, certain people who have specified mental conditions, have a domestic violence restraining orders against them, are on probation, or committed certain offenses as juveniles may be prohibited from buying, owning, or possessing firearms or ammunition in California. That said, ghost guns are often purchased by those who are prohibited from having firearms, as we mentioned before, and as a result, both state and federal authorities are working diligently to close the legal loophole that has allowed ghost gun purchases to spread rampantly.
In addition, law enforcement agencies are working tirelessly to detect ghost gun manufacturers and distributors while targeting those who purchase these firearms. With the increasing amount of ghost guns being recovered at crime scenes, authorities are motivated to target those who are suspected of using them in the commission of crimes.
For these reasons and more, we strongly encourage you to contact us at (510) 907-6600 if you are charged with weapons or violent crimes. Our lawyer will fight for you!