Understanding New Jersey Ghost Guns Laws
Are Ghost Guns Legal in NJ?
“Ghost guns”—this mysterious name quite fittingly describes guns that are produced through new, cutting-edge 3D printing or build-your-own gun kits, making them very difficult to track and control. These guns are also known as privately-made firearms (PMFs). In many ways, technological advances have served to expand and strengthen gun control measures like biometrics authentication and the employment of AI technology to track patterns related to gun crime. However, innovation is also working against gun control efforts when it comes to ghost guns by making it easier for firearms to fall into the hands of criminals and others who wish to obfuscate gun regulations.
Possessing, purchasing, transporting and manufacturing ghost guns are all crimes prosecutable as indictable offenses in New Jersey. Since 2016, suspected ghost guns recovered at crime scenes have increased dramatically. Some individuals who utilize 3D technology of DIY building kits to obtain a firearm may be ignorant to the illegality of such actions. Yet, if you’re faced with allegations of possessing or manufacturing a ghost gun, you need legal counsel and an aggressive defense strategy right away. Contact our talented team of New Jersey criminal defense lawyers to discuss your charges for privately-made firearms. We defend clients charged with owning homemade guns and other crimes involving untraceable firearms throughout the state of NJ, including in Ocean County, Essex County, Bergen County, Somerset County, and Hudson County. Contact (201)-556-1570 to speak with an attorney on our team free of charge.
Ghost Guns: The Basics
Simply put, a ghost gun is a homemade firearm that cannot be traced because it lacks an identifying serial number that is permanently affixed to a firearm during the manufacturing process. These untraceable guns can be produced with 3D printers, which can build a gun by using software programmed to create 3-dimensional objects by depositing material onto a flat surface and then layering on additional material according to a digital model. The absence of a serial number makes it very difficult for law enforcement to determine the origins of a particular firearm that may have been used in a crime or determine a gun’s ownership history.
Ghost guns can also be built with DIY kits and the sale of individual gun components. Some kits that are sold online provide purchasers with everything they need to build a functional firearm and instructions on how to assemble it. But hobbyists and gun enthusiasts must take pause—along with a new-found skill, DIY firearm kits bring exposure to criminal liability.
Federal Requirements for Manufacturers of Gun-Building Kits
To combat the danger of ghost guns, the Biden Administration launched the National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative. This initiative will provide prosecutors across the nation with specialized training in handling cases involving ghost guns. In April 2022, the federal government introduced a new rule through the U.S. Department of Justice, which categorizes DIY gun-building kits as firearms under the Gun Control Act. As such, manufacturers must obtain a license and include serial numbers on the guns. Those selling the kits commercially must obtain a federal license and run background checks on purchasers.
New Jersey Criminal Liability for Ghost Guns
Recently, New Jersey Governor Murphy signed comprehensive gun reforms into law, which, in part, were aimed at controlling and criminalizing the manufacture of ghost guns. Specifically, the law upgrades purchasing separate gun parts to build a firearm without a serial number or manufacturing a firearm with a 3D printer from a third degree offense to a second degree offense. It also makes it illegal to distribute computer code that is capable of producing a firearm in a 3D printer.
Upgrading the manufacture of ghost guns from a third to a second degree offense raised the potential penalties for these offenses from 3 to 5 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $15,000 as a third degree offense to 5 to 10 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $150,000 for a second degree offense.
Ghost guns, by their nature and the intention behind how they are built, lack serial numbers. Possessing a firearm without a serial number is a crime in New Jersey, as is purchasing or transporting a firearm without a serial number. Those found to be in possession of a ghost gun can be charged with possessing prohibited weapons and devices, which is a third degree crime in these instances, punished by 3 to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.
Transporting manufactured firearms into New Jersey for the purpose of an unlawful sale is a second degree crime. Ghost guns, which do not possess serial numbers and are not manufactured pursuant to a lawful license to manufacture firearms, cannot be sold lawfully. If convicted, those who transport ghost guns into New Jersey may face prison time of up to 10 years and be ordered to pay up to $150,000 in fines.
Charged with a Ghost Gun in New Jersey? We can Help
When faced with charges for a firearms offense in New Jersey including possessing, purchasing, transporting, or manufacturing a ghost gun, your main objective should be to retain the counsel of a lawyer with advanced knowledge and experience in this area of law. Furthermore, you want to find a lawyer who understands firearms themselves and is well-versed on every point of New Jersey gun law, including the rapidly changing regulatory environment as it relates to firearms crimes and punishments for these violations.
Does the prosecution have enough evidence against you to meet its burden in court? Is that evidence admissible in court? Are the alleged gun parts you received or manufactured really firearm parts? These are all important questions for your lawyer to ask, answer, and develop a defense strategy around. This is what our accomplished criminal defense attorneys do on a regular basis when handling guns and weapons cases in counties statewide, including in Passaic, Monmouth, Middlesex, Union, Morris, and Warren Counties.
We understand that each case is different and we examine all of the facts and evidence to help you determine the best defense strategy for your case. Charges related to possessing, purchasing, transporting, or manufacturing ghost guns can lead to significant prison time in New Jersey, if convicted. Contact our New Jersey gun lawyers today at (201)-556-1570 for a free review of your case, answers to your questions, and our assistance to put your best defense forward.