Simply put, ghost guns are firearms without serial numbers. These weapons—from handguns to assault rifles—are virtually untraceable by law enforcement.
Gun manufacturers are required by the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 to engrave serial numbers on all guns. Ghost guns, however, circumvent federal law by being sold as DIY (do it yourself) kits. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), these “80%” or “unfinished” kits “do not meet the definition of ‘a firearm.'”
Ghost Guns Are Easy to Make and Sell
Ghost gun kits—and fully assembled weapons—are favored by some gun rights activists and people who do not wish to or cannot purchase guns legally (e.g., minors, convicted felons). Increasingly, ghost guns are found in criminal investigations, according to the Center for American Progress.
Currently, ghost guns are legal under federal and Pennsylvania state law, but that could change.
PA AG Wants to Outlaw Ghost Guns
In December 2019, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro attempted to require gun show operators to do background checks on people buying gun kits. Several gun rights groups immediately sued. In January 2020, Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson issued a preliminary injunction against Shapiro and the Pennsylvania State Police. The case is still being litigated.
Shapiro, who is running for governor as a Democrat next year, responded, “I will continue to fight … to close this gaping loophole in the system that allows criminals to get their hands on untraceable, unserialized, DIY firearms.”
Alleged Gun Traffickers Arrested in New Jersey
Toward that end, this October, Shapiro and New Jersey acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck announced the indictment of William Pillus of Lincoln Park, New Jersey. Pillus has been charged with five gun-related felonies.
Pillus allegedly purchased 13 nine-millimeter handgun kits at a gun show in Allentown, Pennsylvania. DIY gun kits are illegal in New Jersey. A joint investigation under the PA/NJ Gun Trafficking Initiative tracked Pillus to his New Jersey home.
Pennsylvania has also partnered with Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey to prosecute gun traffickers with the cooperation of the ATF.
Ghost Guns Are Illegal in Philadelphia
While ghost guns are still legal in Pennsylvania, they are definitely not in the city of Philadelphia. In March, four Philadelphia men were arrested for selling or buying DIY gun kits at the Morgantown Gun Show in February.
The Attorney General's and Philadelphia DA's Gun Violence Task Forces are prosecuting the men.
The Lento Law Firm Protects Gun Owner Rights
“Pennsylvanians who manufacture, sell, buy, or possess ghost guns face an uncertain future with both federal and state regulators looking to make ghost guns illegal,” said criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento.
“If you are charged with a crime involving any kind of firearms, but especially gun kits, call me today at 888-535-3538. I will protect your rights.”