Ghost Guns Under Scrutiny: Definition, Federal and State Laws, FAQs Answered


In recent years, the term “ghost guns” has gained significant attention due to their unregulated and untraceable nature. Ghost guns are firearms that are either sold as individual parts or as disassembled kits without a serial number, making them highly attractive to individuals seeking to bypass background checks and evade law enforcement scrutiny. The proliferation of ghost guns has raised concerns about public safety and the ability to track and prevent illegal firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

As a Las Vegas-based law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of our clients, The Defenders aims to shed light on the topic of ghost guns, the laws surrounding them, and the potential dangers they pose.

Gun control has always been a hot issue in the United States, and ghost guns are a recent development that may exacerbate the already divided opinion on this topic.

In this article, we will explore what ghost guns are, the existing federal and state laws governing them, the risks associated with their use, common questions and concerns, potential penalties, and the importance of hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney if you are facing charges related to ghost guns or any other criminal charge.

The Defenders is a team of experienced criminal defense lawyers in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our attorneys have a thorough understanding of gun laws and are committed to protecting the rights of our clients no matter what they are accused of. We understand how important your case is and will provide you with personalized attention and diligent representation while fighting for the best possible outcome on your behalf. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.

What Are Ghost Guns?

Ghost guns are firearms that are unregulated, untraceable, and lack a serial number. They can be assembled using individual parts or purchased as disassembled kits, typically including unfinished components like the receiver or frame of the firearm.

These guns are initially considered non-functional and do not require a serial number. However, with minimal modifications, such as simple drilling, they can be transformed into fully functional weapons.

This also applies to spring guns.

This loophole in federal gun regulations is creating a huge problem for law enforcement, as these types of weapons do not require a background check, making them an attractive option for felons and a growing network of underground dealers or gun traffickers.

The Appeal of Ghost Guns

The allure of ghost guns lies in their ability to bypass background checks and evade traditional gun regulations. By purchasing individual parts or kits without a serial number, individuals can acquire firearms without undergoing the scrutiny typically associated with legal gun purchases.

This makes ghost guns an attractive option for felons, individuals prohibited from owning firearms, and those involved in underground gun trafficking networks.

The Rise of Ghost Guns

The proliferation of ghost guns has become a growing concern for law enforcement agencies across the United States.

Statistics reveal that a significant portion of firearms recovered by law enforcement in California, for instance, are ghost guns, accounting for approximately 30% of all confiscated firearms. The accessibility of parts, kits, and even 3D printers has made it easier for individuals to manufacture or acquire ghost guns, leading to an increase in their use in criminal activities.

The Dangers of Ghost Guns

Untraceability and Law Enforcement Challenges

One of the primary dangers associated with ghost guns is their untraceable nature. The absence of a serial number makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies to track these firearms back to their original manufacturer or importer, hindering investigations and crime-solving efforts. Ghost guns provide criminals, terrorists, and extremist groups with the ability to stockpile weapons without detection, posing a significant threat to public safety.

In addition, building a gun has become significantly easier with the availability of parts, and kits, and 3D printers right at the fingertips of anyone who has access to a computer and the internet, including criminals and gun traffickers. Felons who are banned from purchasing a weapon legally now have a way to easily obtain the makings of a ghost gun.

According to the ATF, approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered across the country in 2019.

Accessibility to Prohibited Individuals

The ease of acquiring ghost guns without a background check creates a loophole in gun regulations that allows prohibited individuals, such as felons, to obtain firearms.

This circumvention of the legal process undermines public safety measures designed to prevent individuals with criminal records or mental health issues from possessing firearms. The unchecked availability of ghost guns exacerbates the risks associated with gun violence and poses a substantial threat to communities.

Increased Use in Criminal Activity

Ghost guns have been increasingly linked to violent crimes in recent years.

According to a recent federal report, the use of ghost guns in criminal activities in the United States has surged by an astonishing 1,000% since 2017.

Is a Gun Required to Have a Serial Number?

A gun without a serial number is considered an illegal weapon. One who possesses or carries a gun without a serial number is breaking the law.

In cases where a serial number has been tampered with or destroyed, the National Tracing Center can enlist the assistance of forensic experts who utilize specialized technology in order to identify where the gun came from.

Are Ghost Guns Reliable Weapons?

It used to take a skilled and knowledgeable craftsman with proper tools and machinery to be able to make a gun. Now, nearly anyone can obtain and make a gun – even a minor.

It has been proven that “3D printers can be used to print out frames and receivers and combine them with metal parts in order to complete the assembly of ghost guns. Even though the pieces are made of plastic, they are easily able to shoot at least 1,000 to 2,000 rounds.”

The Use of Ghost Guns in Shootings Nationwide Is Continually Increasing

Here are five instances ranging from 2013 to 2020 in which ghost guns were used in violent crimes.

  1. In July 2020, an individual who was prohibited from possessing guns allegedly murdered two people in Pennsylvania using a homemade 9mm handgun. ref 1
  2. In November 2019, a 16-year-old shot five of his classmates at Saugus High School in California—two of them fatally—using a homemade handgun, before fatally shooting himself. ref 2
  3. In August 2019, a shooter used a homemade gun kit to build a .223-caliber firearm that he later used to fire 41 shots in 32 seconds in a bar in Dayton, Ohio, shooting 26 people and killing nine. ref 3
  4. In 2017, in Northern California, a man prohibited from possessing firearms ordered kits to build AR-15-style rifles. On November 13, he initiated a series of shootings that began with fatally shooting his wife at home, followed by a rampage the next day during which he fired at multiple people in several different locations, including an elementary school, killing five people and injuring dozens more. ref 4
  5. In 2013, a shooter opened fire in Santa Monica, California, shooting 100 rounds, killing five people, and injuring several others at a community college using a homemade AR-15 rifle. Reporting indicates the shooter had previously tried to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer and failed a background check, potentially indicating why he opted to order parts to build a gun instead. ref 5

As of January 1, 2022, a Nevada law will go into effect that bans the sale and possession of unassembled weapons sold in kits or made with 3D printers that, in their unfinished state, are not classified as weapons and do not require serial numbers, otherwise referred to as “ghost” guns. In particular, the law targets those who are legally prohibited from owning firearms since ghost guns are currently readily available to anyone.

Potential Penalties

In Nevada, the laws surrounding the ownership and use of ghost guns are stringent and well-defined. Violation of these laws can lead to serious legal consequences.

As per the law in Nevada, it is unlawful to manufacture, assemble, or cause to be manufactured or assembled, a ghost gun. This means that if you are found in possession of a ghost gun that you have created or had someone else create for you, you could be breaking the law.

The penalties for violating this law are significant. A first offense may constitute a gross misdemeanor, which can carry heavy fines and possible jail time. If you are found to violate the law a second time or more, these offenses may constitute a category D felony, which carries even more severe penalties.

Despite these regulations, it remains legal to possess and transport the components of a ghost gun. However, assembling these components into a functioning firearm would be a violation of the law.

Please note that this information is subject to change as laws evolve. It is always best to consult with a legal professional or your local law enforcement agency to ensure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Defenses Against Ghost Gun Charges

Various defenses may be available to individuals facing ghost gun charges. These defenses may include challenging the legality of the search and seizure, contesting the admissibility of evidence, proving a lack of knowledge or intent, or demonstrating compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can assess your case, identify viable defenses, and develop a strategic defense strategy tailored to your specific circumstances.

The Importance of Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

Ghost guns present a unique challenge to our legal system, public safety, and the efforts to combat gun violence. The unregulated and untraceable nature of these firearms has raised concerns among lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, and communities across the nation. The federal and state laws on ghost guns aim to address these concerns by introducing new requirements for marking, recordkeeping, and accountability.

Ghost gun cases involve intricate legal processes and require a deep understanding of federal and state gun laws. Hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience in firearms-related cases is crucial to navigating these complexities. An attorney can guide you through the legal proceedings, protect your rights, and advocate for the best possible outcome.

If you or a loved one is facing ghost gun-related charges, it is crucial to seek immediate legal representation. The skilled criminal defense attorneys at The Defenders have the knowledge, experience, and dedication to protect your rights and provide you with the robust defense you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us guide you through this challenging legal process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a ghost gun?

Ghost guns are firearms that are homemade or assembled from parts, often without serial numbers, making them difficult to trace. They’re a serious concern for law enforcement agencies given their potential use in illegal activities.

Is it legal to own a ghost gun in Nevada?

No, it’s not. In Nevada, it’s unlawful to manufacture, assemble or cause to be manufactured or assembled, a ghost gun. Violating this law can lead to severe penalties, including fines and jail time.

What if I only have the parts of a ghost gun but haven’t assembled them?

In Nevada, it’s still legal to possess and transport the components of a ghost gun. However, the moment you assemble these parts into a functioning firearm, you’re breaking the law.

What happens if I’m caught with a ghost gun more than once in Nevada?

Repeat offenses are even more serious. If you’re caught with a ghost gun more than once, you could be charged with a category D felony. This carries harsher penalties, including more severe fines and longer jail time.

I’m confused about these laws. Where can I get more information?

Laws can be complex and they often change. It’s always best to consult with a legal professional or your local law enforcement agency. They will provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information.

I’ve been charged with a ghost gun-related offense. What should I do now?

If you’re facing charges related to ghost guns, it’s crucial to seek legal help immediately. A skilled criminal defense attorney with experience in firearms-related cases can guide you through the legal proceedings, protect your rights, and advocate for the best possible outcome.

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