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What Is a “Ghost Gun”?

September 3, 2019

These types of guns are an end run around California’s strict gun laws

What Is a “Ghost Gun”?

In August, a convicted felon shot and killed a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer and wounded two others during a shootout in Riverside. In the exchange, the shooter was shot and later died at the hospital. It was later revealed that the suspect, Aaron Luther, had a lengthy criminal record that included convictions for disturbing the peace, vandalism, battery, stalking, unlawful possession of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, and corporal injury on a spouse. In 1994, he pled guilty to burglary and second-degree murder charges and was sentenced to 12 years in state prison.

Under California law, Luther was barred from possessing a gun. Our state has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from acquiring, owning or being in possession of a firearm. According to a Riverside criminal defense lawyer, Luther’s multiple felony convictions — plus his domestic violence convictions — meant that he was ineligible to possess a gun of any type in the state of California. Yet he still managed to have a gun — one that was used in a shootout with CHP officers in Riverside.

Various news sources have reported that the gun used by Luther was a “ghost gun.” According to federal firearms officials, one in three guns seized in California is a ghost gun — a homemade gun without a serial number. This makes these firearms all but untraceable, hence the name ghost guns.

Ghost guns are manufactured from parts that an individual can assemble on their own. These parts can be ordered online from a website, from a gun network, or by 3D printings the parts. These parts create nearly completed firearms, known as 80% receivers, and require no background check to sell or purchase. From there, an individual can add the remaining parts to make the firearm function.

While it is legal to buy gun parts online and assemble your own gun, if you do assemble a firearm, the state requires you to apply for a serial number. All homemade ghost guns must be registered with law enforcement. The possession of unregistered ghost guns is illegal.

As of February 2019, no one has been charged with a violation of California’s ghost gun laws. Yet according to a Riverside criminal defense lawyer, this may soon change. Assemblyman Mike Gipson has proposed a new bill, AB 879, which would require background checks to purchase certain gun parts, including 80% receivers. If this bill becomes law, it would prevent many individuals from being able to buy guns. In addition, federal lawmakers have proposed a law that would close the ghost gun loophole.

While ghost guns may be easily accessible in California, it is still illegal to possess this type of weapon without registering it. If you have been charged with any kind of gun crime in California, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a Riverside criminal defense lawyer.

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