Ghost Guns: California’s Legal Requirements for Self-Made Firearms
What Are Ghost Guns?
As a result of California’s restrictive gun laws, self-made firearms have risen in popularity. These so-called “ghost guns” are manufactured outside of the traditional supply chain. They may be built on a 3-D printer, or put together using individual components sold by hundreds of companies that make almost finished weapons. The nearly completed firearms, known as “80 percent receivers,” are especially enticing to criminals because they don’t require a background check to purchase.
Since they are created without the knowledge of the government, this type of weapon is easy to buy and undetectable by authorities. With normal guns in America, each weapon has a unique serial number, and each buyer must go through a background check and record his sale. These procedures deter gun owners from committing crimes with their registered guns, as the crime could be easily traced back to them. Ghost guns, on the other hand, offer anonymity. However, self-made firearms have strict legal requirements, detailed below.
California’s Ghost Gun Laws
Due to the recent rise in popularity of these self-made firearms, California’s legislature has cracked down on laws governing such weapons. California Penal Code Section 29180 details the steps that self-assembled firearm owners must take in order to prevent criminal charges:
- Prior to assembling or manufacturing a firearm, a person must apply to the Department of Justice for a unique serial number or other marks of identification. An application will only be granted by the department if the applicant does all of the following:
- Complete a firearms eligibility check demonstrating that the applicant is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing, receiving, owning, or purchasing a firearm
- Present proof of age and identity showing the applicant is at least 21 years of age
- Provide a description of the firearm that the applicant owns or intends to manufacture or assemble
- Have a valid firearm safety certificate or handgun safety certificate
- Within 10 days of receiving a unique serial number, the serial number must be engraved or permanently affixed to the firearm.
- After the serial number is engraved or otherwise permanently affixed to the firearm, the person must notify the department of that fact with sufficient information to identify the owner of the firearm, the unique serial number, and the firearm in a manner prescribed by the department.
- The sale or transfer of ownership of a firearm manufactured or assembled pursuant to this section is prohibited.
- A person, corporation, or firm cannot knowingly allow, facilitate, aid, or abet the manufacture or assembling of a firearm pursuant to this section by a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state law.
Penalties for Violating PC 29180
Because California takes its gun control laws seriously, a violation of the legal requirements above could hold harsh consequences. The penalties for failing to comply with PC 29180 vary depending on what kind of firearm resulted in the violation.
If the firearm is a handgun, a violation of this section is punishable by:
- Up to $1,000 in fines and/or
- Up to 1 year in county jail
For all other firearms, a violation of this section is punishable by:
- Up to $1,000 in fines and/or
- Up to 6 months in county jail
Each firearm found to be in violation of this section constitutes a distinct and separate offense. Furthermore, this section does not preclude prosecution under any other law providing for a greater penalty.
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