Law Enforcement Officers Push For Passage Of ‘Ghost Gun’ Regulations

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When it comes to reducing gun violence, police believe “ghost guns” are a severe problem. Ghost guns refer to an unserialized, unregistered firearm, usually constructed out of a kit or created in a 3D printer.

By Criminal Defense Attorney Kush Arora of Price Benowitz LLP

When it comes to reducing gun violence, police believe “ghost guns” are a severe problem. Ghost guns refer to an unserialized, unregistered firearm, usually constructed out of a kit or created in a 3D printer. 

Gun kits are difficult to regulate. Before the buyer assembles them, they are technically building materials which do not require the same background checks and waiting periods as fully constructed firearms.

Police regularly recover homemade guns without serial numbers from crime scenes, such as that of the Saugus High School shooting in Santa Clarita, California, last November.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) are teaming up with politicians to promote federal legislation regulating the sale of ghost guns. Currently, gun-building kits do not require a background check.

Although California has legislation requiring ghost gun owners to apply for a built firearm serial number, these laws prove difficult to enforce.

At the moment, these laws are only on the books in five states. The proposed “Ghost Guns Are Guns Act,” which is currently in a House of Representatives committee, would change the federal definition of a firearm to include gun kits and 3D-printed guns. 

While the Ghost Guns Are Guns Act has the support of police, it faces challenges in a highly partisan Congress where firearm regulation has proven to be a polarizing issue. For many, the debate over ghost guns ties into the broader conflict over Second Amendment rights in America.

Proponents of more regulation argue that gun sellers exploit loopholes in federal firearm laws by breaking weapons down into parts.

Those parts may be sold in kits, many of which come as much as 80 percent assembled and require basic skills to build. 

These guns ship to consumers without serialization and it is difficult, if not impossible, to track ghost gun owners. For this reason, regulators worry convicted felons can circumvent gun-buying bans by buying unserialized components.

Opponents of ghost gun regulations fear that they could harm people who build guns as a hobby, without violent or criminal intentions.

Firearm rights advocates argue that it is unclear what constitutes a “ghost gun,” and that a too-broad law could restrict the sale of tools, such as 3D printers, to law-abiding Americans. As such, this law could regulate materials that could be used to make a firearm, creating bureaucratic red tape trade restrictions.

Ghost gun legislation, like any gun control measure, will be hotly debated by both sides. Interestingly, California ghost gun registration database legislation will not go into effect until 2024.

This delay will allow law enforcement to track ghost gun purchases and build a database framework. With that being said, even if ghost gun regulations are passed soon, it may take some time for these changes to go into effect.

As ghost guns continue turning up at crime scenes, we will likely see more conflict over this issue at both the state and federal level.

In the meantime, gun owners should ensure they are keeping up with the changing legal landscape to avoid any legal ramifications. 

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