What Is a Ghost Gun?

What Is a Ghost Gun?

Are Ghost Guns Illegal?

Police officers and investigators have discovered a common finding at violent crime scenes: Unregulated firearms. 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. Otherwise known as “ghost guns,” these unregulated firearms have long been available to Americans, particularly, those who want to avoid the law altogether. That said, minors and prohibited purchasers have easily gotten their hands on ghost gun kits because they can avoid background checks, they can further their criminal activity, and ghost guns are relatively low-cost. Other key elements to know about ghost guns are that they are:

  • Unregulated
  • Lack a serial number
  • Untraceable

Ghost gun kits include everything needed to transform an unfinished frame into a functional weapon. As such, they are considered just as deadly and dangerous as guns legally-purchased firearms. Despite these similarities, however, the federal government has yet to “catch up” and update its firearms laws.

Believe it or not, ghost guns have gone undetected for many reasons, one being that current federal law contains a loophole allowing for ghost guns to avoid subjection to federal firearm requirements. In other words, federal law does not contain provisions as to who can purchase ghost gun kits or parts and there are no limits on the number of kits or parts a person can buy.

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

The federal government and judges alike have interpreted this definition to include only fully furnished firearms, frames, and receivers, but not those that are unfinished. This is the main reason why ghost guns have not been subjected to federal legal requirements for firearms ― the parts used to assemble these firearms technically are not considered “firearms.”

On the other hand, traditional firearms are made by licensed companies and purchased from licensed gun dealers, who then sell them to verified buyers who pass background checks and meet other legal requirements. These legal firearms contain serial numbers, so they are traceable, unlike ghost guns.

Federal Government Takes Action Against Ghost Guns

Now that the federal government has been made aware of the prevalence and threat of ghost guns in the United States, it has proposed a rule that would seek to close the ghost gun loophole. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 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 ― ghost guns.

The DOJ emphasizes that ghost guns are often easily acquired by criminals who otherwise would be prohibited from possessing a firearm. Generally, federal law prohibits people who have certain mental incapacities or were convicted of felonies or certain domestic violence offenses to possess, purchase, sell, distribute, or traffic firearms. In Georgia, those who are convicted of a felony or are either on probation as a “felony first offender” or have received a conditional discharge for a felony may not purchase or receive a firearm. In addition, those who have been adjudicated mentally defected or have been admitted to a mental institution are generally prohibited from possessing a firearm in Georgia. A lawyer can clarify your firearm rights if you have further questions.

That said, 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 America, 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

Although this proposed rule has yet to go into effect, it’s important to recognize that authorities are taking action against ghost guns. Thus, you should brace yourself for the impacts of these regulations once they become law because if you’re caught with a ghost gun, you could face both state and federal weapons charges.

Who Can Possess a Gun In Georgia?

With these facts and proposals in mind, you may be wondering who can have a firearm in Georgia. As we mentioned before, those convicted of or on probation for a felony are generally prohibited from possessing, using, or carrying a firearm in Georgia. In addition, anyone who has a domestic protective order against them or is deemed “mentally defective” may not be allowed to have a firearm depending on the circumstances.

With this in mind, Georgia is an open carry state. A person must have what is called a “weapons carry” license (WCL) to legally carry a handgun, although, any person can openly carry a long gun in Georgia. In fact, a loaded long gun MUST be carried openly in Georgia. But remember, ghost guns are not eligible for open carry, as they will soon become “officially” illegal according to the federal government.

If you have questions about state and federal gun laws or how the legal developments on ghost guns may impact you, we can help. Our lawyers proudly defend the accused and can defend you from your weapons charges today. Feel free to get in touch with us online or at (866) 580-3089!