Are “ghost guns” illegal?

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Gun control and aggressive prosecution of gun crimes have been significant stories in Chicago and throughout Illinois in recent months. In a recent post, we talked about the federal crackdown of straw purchasers of weapons.

An important related issue involves “ghost guns” and various gun modifications. It is important to understand when a personal modification to an otherwise legal gun becomes criminal firearm possession. Similarly, when can owning various pieces of a firearm, each of which is legal in itself, become criminal gun possession? It is important to understand the basics of these issues to avoid criminal prosecution.

Ghost guns

Prosecutions surrounding “ghost guns” are on the rise; they usually involve unlawful transfer of a firearm to a prohibited person or unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon or otherwise prohibited person. A so-called “ghost gun” is basically an unregistrable firearm. A person can buy a kit online that contains a significant percentage of a gun’s parts, and then acquire the other parts from another vendor or manufacturer (legal or illegal) or various gun parts; they have no serial number as required under the federal Gun Control Act.

In other ghost gun scenarios, people use 3D printers to create fully functioning firearms, various pieces of firearms or buy pieces separately to assemble a functioning firearm with its varying parts.

Although owning these parts individually is generally legal, once the firearm is assembled, it can become illegal if is it assembled outside of a legally licensed facility, if it was assembled in a way that varies from the legally approved processes, or if there is no serial number.

As of right now, in isolation, these crimes are not illegal under federal law, though they are prosecuted in a roundabout way. President Biden has been working to propose federal law to limit and regulate non-serial number ghost guns since May, according to Forbes.

Other modifications

In addition to creating useable firearms piecemeal, people also frequently add modifications to their guns. These can include suppressors that are similar to silencers in that they reduce the overall volume of a gun’s discharge. Silencers are illegal in Illinois and a handful of other states.

Another modification involves a “Glock switch” or an “auto sear.” These devises can transform a gun from being a single shot weapon into an automatic that releases multiple shots with each pull of the gun’s trigger. This technique transforms an otherwise legal, semi-automatic handgun, into a machine gun, which is illegal to possess in Illinois and under federal law. In fact, a Chicago man recently faces charges of possessing a machine gun for using this technique.

Before you build or modify your gun

It is important to know the state of the various state and federal firearm laws before building or modifying a handgun, as you could inadvertently be creating an illegal firearm or rendering your firearm illegal It is also important to understand the various laws regarding the unlawful possession or transfer of a firearm by or to a prohibited person.

If you are facing handgun charges for creating or modifying a gun, make sure to fight back aggressively; your freedom will be at stake. Attorney Darryl L. Goldberg has a wealth of experience and success defending clients against a range of gun crime charges.


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