What Is a Ghost Gun? Is It Legal to Own One?

what is a ghost gun -- a black gun with bullets

What Is a Ghost Gun? Is It Legal to Own One?

In November 2021, a 16-year-old student at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix was shot by a 15-year-old peer during a gun transaction. According to police, the 16-year-old student brought a gun to school to sell to the other student. Things escalated when the seller realized the buyer’s money was fake. After a confrontation, the 15-year-old student shot the 16-year-old with the just-purchased gun.

The gun purchased during this incident was a “ghost gun.” Over the past year, ghost guns have become more commonly involved in shooting incidents across the country, from Los Angeles to New York. Let’s take a deeper dive into what the term “ghost gun” means, and whether or not ghost guns are legal. 

What exactly is a ghost gun? 

In basic terms, a ghost gun is a firearm that a person receives in pieces and must assemble themselves. The components can be sold as a kit or sold separately. Some gun parts can also be made with a 3D printer. 

In order for a firearm to be legally sold or owned in the United States, it must have a serial number engraved on it. Because ghost guns are sold in pieces, they do not have serial numbers. This makes them both untraceable and illegal. 

Additionally, a person can purchase a ghost gun without a background check. That means a person with a criminal background can purchase a ghost gun. 

Are ghost guns legal? 

Because of an increased use of ghost guns in committing crimes, the United States government recently began cracking down on them. In April of 2022, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Justice issued a final rule that requires ghost gun kits to be made only by licensed manufacturers. 

The final rule also expands the Department of Justice’s definition of a firearm to include firearm parts kits. This requires manufacturers to follow the same regulations for gun kits as for fully assembled guns—each kit must include a serial number and require a background check prior to purchase. 

What You Should Know About Ghost Guns

Although Arizona is an open carry state, and allows residents to own or purchase a gun without a license, residents must still adhere to the federal laws governing ghost guns. Anyone ineligible to possess a gun—like convicted felons—loses their constitutional right to possess a firearm, including a ghost gun. 

If you face charges for a crime involving a ghost gun, certified criminal law specialist Todd Coolidge can help. He has more than 25 years of experience defending Arizona residents and upholding their constitutional right to bear arms. 

Call Coolidge Law Firm today at 602-795-0770 for an appointment at our Phoenix office, or 480-264-5111 in Chandler. 

Photo by Tom Def on Unsplash