man putting cartridge in handgun

A “ghost gun” is a homemade firearm assembled from unfinished gun frames and receivers, often purchased from companies that sell gun parts or parts kits that buyers can use to construct firearms at home. Because ghost guns are privately made, they lack serial numbers, which makes them dangerous and difficult to track. Furthermore, ghost guns and the parts necessary to make them can be acquired without background checks because the law requires checks only for people purchasing finished firearms from licensed dealers.

Federal Laws on Ghost Guns

The Gun Control Act of 1968 regulates the production, sale, and possession of firearms at the federal level. The Gun Control Act makes it illegal for an unlicensed party to make a firearm for sale or distribution. Under federal law, firearms manufacturers must put serial numbers on firearms.

However, some manufacturers have sold parts kits or standalone gun parts that consumers can purchase and use to assemble a functional firearm. The law does not make it illegal for someone to make or assemble a firearm for personal use unless they cannot lawfully possess firearms due to a felony conviction or other legal issue. But gun part and part kit manufacturers traditionally have not put serial numbers on the gun receiver parts they sell.

To combat this loophole, the U.S. Department of Justice made a rule in 2022 clarifying that partially complete or disassembled gun frames and receivers or parts kits qualify as firearms under the Gun Control Act, requiring them to have serial numbers. A federal district court vacated the rule, arguing that it exceeds the government’s authority under the Gun Control Act. However, the United States Supreme Court disagreed, issuing an opinion in favor of the rule on August 8, 2023, and reviving the restrictions.

Pennsylvania Laws on Ghost Guns

Pennsylvania law does not specifically mention the term “ghost gun.” However, possessing a ghost gun could potentially be a violation of the following laws, depending on the circumstances:

  • 18 Pa.C.S. § 6105 – Person not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell, or transfer firearm
  • 18 Pa.C.S. § 6110.2 – Possession of a firearm with altered manufacturer’s number
  • 18 Pa.C.S. § 6117 – Altering or obliterating marks of identification

These crimes are generally classified as second-degree felonies, punishable by up to ten years imprisonment and a fine of up to $25,000. If a person who is not supposed to be in possession of a firearm conceals the weapon at the time of committing the offense or has previously been convicted of the same crime, the defendant can be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of more than ten years imprisonment.

Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested and charged with firearms offenses in Philadelphia, you need experienced legal representation to protect your rights, freedom, and future. Contact The Zeiger Firm today for a free, confidential consultation with an aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options. Our Philadelphia criminal lawyer can advise you of your legal options and help pursue a favorable outcome for your case.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.