Ghost guns present a considerable threat to gun control laws. Ghost guns are guns that are assembled by component parts bought online. These guns are increasingly posing a challenge to law enforcement and to public safety. The component parts, essentially a gun kit, are available online for anyone to purchase. The criminal use of ghost guns is an increasing menace and something that we will hear more about in coming months and years. These guns have been linked to hundreds of shootings, including murders; unfortunately, the use of ghost guns is rising.
Ghost gun kits or components are typically purchased online and assembled at home. Assembled ghost guns are also being sold on the street. There are no age restrictions or background checks for purchasing ghost gun kits or component parts. Once assembled, the gun has no serial number, making the gun difficult to trace. Given their ease of acquisition, ghost guns are particularly popular among teens, although they are being used in crimes committed by adults as well.
Assembling a homemade gun is not illegal. Building homemade guns has long been a tradition in the United States among hobbyists and gun enthusiasts. Ghost guns, however, do not require the skill and knowledge that is required to build a homemade gun from scratch. Ghost guns are simple enough for a kid to put together without any skills in the gun making process. The companies who sell the parts to make the gun usually sell the unfinished frame and/or receivers, about 80 percent of the gun’s component parts, while the remaining 20 percent of the gun requires simple manufacturing processes that can be done at home.
A minority of states have laws that regulate selling these parts without serial numbers, but that is like putting a finger in the dike to stop a flood. These gun kits can be shipped to other states without serializing them. The kits can then be mailed elsewhere or put together and sold. In a recent court settlement with one of the main suppliers of the ghost gun kits, the company agreed to not sell their gun kits in California without serial numbers and background checks. But that only applied to the one company (although it is the main supplier of these kits). Still these guns, unserialized, may be shipped to an Arizona address, for example, and easily reach the hands of someone in California.
The legal status of ghost guns is still evolving. In 2021, the Biden administration announced a number of measures to crack down on ghost guns, including requiring background checks for ghost gun kits and making it illegal to sell ghost guns without a serial number. However, these measures have been challenged in court, and it is unclear whether they will ultimately be upheld.
In the meantime, ghost guns present a frightening challenge to public safety and to law enforcement, compounding the already complex and divisive gun control debate in this country and presenting a new danger to the public.
Orange County criminal defense attorney William Weinberg is available for a free consultation to discuss your criminal matter and offer his opinion regarding your options. You may contact him at his Irvine office by phoning 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at email@example.com.