You can conceal carry a ghost gun in all states except California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Federal law does not prohibit self-assembled firearms but does ban firearms that are undetectable by a metal detector or x-ray.
Read on to learn more about ghost guns and how federal and state gun laws apply to them.
What Is a Ghost Gun?
A ghost gun is a self-assembled firearm that is “untraceable” by law enforcement because it has no serial number. Self-assembled guns are not new. However, assembling a gun is easier than ever due to the development of gun kits and 3D-printing.
You may be wondering how this is possible. After all, The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires that firearms contain a serial number on the frame or receiver in order to be traceable by law enforcement. However, no other parts of the gun are required to be serialized.
Furthermore, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives focuses on the mechanical aspects of a receiver when defining it as part of a firearm.
If the receiver blank or frame does not have holes or dimples to accommodate the selector, trigger, or hammer pins, it is not yet considered a firearm.
Here is an example below:
Unfinished receivers, which are commonly used for self-assembled guns, are manufactured without the holes and dimples required for it to be considered part of a firearm. Therefore, in most states, they can be sold along with gun kits without a serial number.
Three-dimensional printed guns are also considered ghost guns since they can, with the exception of some states, be legally made without a serial number.
Why Is It Legal to Carry in Most States?
To be clear, it has always been legal to make and possess your own firearm, as long as it is for personal use with no intention to sell. Furthermore, an individual does not need to obtain a license or register the firearm.
This is covered in (18 U.S.C., Chapter 44; § 922 (d).) With exception to certain state laws, this applies to 3D printed guns as well.
Generally speaking, regulations by ATF and federal gun laws are meant to define what makes someone a gun “dealer” and legislate what they can and cannot do.
Prohibiting an individual from making their own gun for personal use, with no intent to sell, is viewed as a violation of that person’s 2nd amendment rights in the US Constitution.
Therefore, unless your state prohibits you from doing so, you can carry a ghost gun as long as it is within the regulations of your state’s concealed carry laws.
That being said, you still need to obtain a permit to carry (when required). Furthermore, if you are an individual who is prohibited from owning a firearm by law, it is illegal for you to make or possess a ghost gun.
Places Where Carrying a Ghost Gun Is Illegal
As ghost guns gain more air time from mainstream media, etc., they are getting more attention from anti-gun groups. This has caused a push for regulation throughout the United States.
While federal law only restricts “undetectable firearms,” there are several states that prohibit the possession and carrying of ghost guns.
California’s ghost gun law was enacted in 2016, became effective in 2018, and was expanded upon in 2019.
This law requires that individuals who plan to assemble a firearm, or who have previously assembled one, cooperate with the state’s DOJ by applying for a serial number. Furthermore, the assembler must comply with the state’s safety standards.
The expansion of the law requires the sale of “firearm precursor parts,” or parts used to self-assemble a gun, to be sold by licensed vendors. These vendors would be pursuant to regulations such as background checks, sale records, and other requirements.
However, the law will not become fully effective until 2025
Connecticut’s ghost gun law was enacted in 2019. The law prohibits the sale of unfinished receivers or frame units unless they comply with state firearm regulations and carry a serial number.
Furthermore, those planning to self-assemble a firearm must apply through the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
District of Columbia
DC’s laws were enacted in 2020. These include two emergency laws and one temporary law that will be in effect until March 12th, 2021. Under these laws, possession of unfinished frames, unfinished receivers, and untraceable firearms is generally prohibited.
Sale and transfer of these items are also prohibited. Exceptions include the surrender of these items to law enforcement or removal from the district.
Hawaii passed a ghost gun law this year as well. Under this law, unlicensed individuals cannot purchase or assemble a firearm with unserialized precursor parts.
Individuals who produce a firearm with a 3D printer must engrave a serial number during construction. Dealers who plan to sell unfinished receivers and gun parts must receive serial numbers. Their sales are subject to the same regulations as completed firearms.
The Garden state’s ghost gun law was enacted in 2018 and strengthened in 2019. New Jersey’s law prevents the assembly of unserialized firearms by prohibiting the purchase or acquisition of unserialized frames and receivers.
Additionally, assembly of firearms by 3D printers and distribution of computer codes can only be done by licensed manufacturers.
When the law was strengthened in 2019, it became a crime in New Jersey to knowingly possess, transfer, ship, sell, or dispose of a firearm that is assembled with parts that are not imprinted with a serial number listed with a federally licensed manufacturer.
New York does not have laws directly pertaining to ghost guns. However, it does have a law that prohibits undetectable firearms, including:
- Firearms that would not be detected by a metal detector after removal of grips, stocks, and magazines
- Firearms that have parts that cannot be imaged by security screening devices, like those used in airports
There are other states that employ similar laws, including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington.
Rhode Island’s law, enacted in June 2020, prohibits the possession of undetectable firearms and ghost guns.
This includes firearms that cannot be metal-detected, are 3D-printed completely of fiberglass or plastic, firearm parts that do not present an accurate image under security screenings, and firearms or receivers that lack a unique serial number.
Washington passed its ghost gun regulation law in 2019. In this state, undetectable firearms are illegal to own: which means selling, manufacturing, loaning, furnishing, transporting, and possessing these firearms is also prohibited.
Furthermore, any individual who is prohibited from owning a firearm or who signed a voluntary firearms waiver is prohibited from making an undetectable or untraceable firearm.
In conclusion, you can carry a ghost gun throughout most of the United States. Federal law recognizes a law-abiding citizen’s right to manufacture their own firearms as long as they do not intend to sell.
However, several states have made a shift to stronger regulations. That being the case, it is important to research your local gun laws if you wish to assemble and conceal carry your own gun.