Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Two Things You Should Know About Home-Made Guns


A man in Winthrop who built “ghost guns,” which are unregistered and untraceable, in his apartment was charged with criminal offenses in August 2020. Police also found 3,000 rounds of ammunition in the man's home as well as a copy of a book by Adolf Hitler. In response to these charges, the man pled not guilty at his arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court. The man came under attention due to a federal investigation into the illegal shipment of firearm suppressors and silencers. State police later searched the man’s apartment and found two 9mm ghost guns. 


Often sold as part of 80% kits in which the firearms are 80% constructed, ghost guns are not regulated as firearms and can be purchased without a gun license or background check. Instead, a buyer uses step-by-step instructions and household tools to make a working firearm. While the firearms should be registered on completion of the assembly, not everyone does so, and earlier this year there were several cases involving criminal charges against people who made or sold ghost guns. 


The man in Winthrop was not licensed to have a firearm and had a history of arrests involving violent gun use. Currently, the man remains out on bail. 


Massachusetts Firearm Laws Mostly Do Not Apply to Ghost Guns


While technologically impressive, “ghost guns” as well as other cutting edge techniques used to make guns involve important considerations, particularly if a person has a criminal history. While Massachusetts has numerous firearm laws, these regulations do not apply to ghost gun kits because they are not classified as firearms by either the state or federal government. Once a person builds the firearm, however, the weapon must be registered with the state. Despite these registration requirements, there are no sales records for most ghost guns, and as a result, it is often impossible to trace the origin of a firearm. While federal law in 2013 was created to prohibit ghost gun kits used to create assault weapons, this regulation failed.


3D-Printed Guns Also Involved


Similar to assembling a firearm from a ghost gun kit, some people utilize 3D printers to make homemade firearms. 3D printing is a process in which a three-dimensional model is designed on a computer and a printer then places successive layers of material to conform to this pattern. While 3D prints were once prohibitively expensive, these printers are now more modestly priced. 3D-printed guns do not require background checks, registrations, or serial numbers. Because the federal Undetectable Firearms Act makes any firearm that cannot be detected with a metal detector illegal, every firearm is required to contain at least some metal. As a result, metal plates must be placed in 3D printed guns, but it is often impossible for law enforcement to enforce this regulation. 


Retain an Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer


Firearm charges in Massachusetts can result in serious penalties, but a skilled attorney can help. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.