Ghost Guns and Their Effects in Florida

June 7, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

The recent mass shootings across our nation have brought up many important issues, from law control to better mental health screening of our youth, to the public’s eye. While not a new subject, with our legislation taking a much harder stance and proactive approach to preventing these unfortunate events since the 2018 Mass shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, the topic of Ghost Guns is in the news once again.

A mystery/romance novel writer was recently found guilty of killing her husband and trying to get away with it by purchasing a Ghost Gun kit and swapping the slide and barrel of her Glock 9mm. To read more about this story, visit our blog here.

In this blog, we will cover what Ghost Guns are, why they are in the news, what one of our Florida politicians has been trying to combat this issue, and what to do when charged with illegal possession of a firearm!

What are Ghost Guns

Ghost guns are unfinished guns that can be constructed by individuals using the bits and pieces from either other guns or kits to create a real, functioning gun once assembled. Ghost Guns are untraceable firearms since they lack a serial number that the law mandates must be included in fully assembled frames and receivers.

Ghost Guns are easily found online and throughout the many gun conventions that occur year-round throughout our State. Individuals are able to purchase Ghost Gun kits that, once assembled, “looks, feels, and functions like a traditional gun, whether a handgun or assault weapon, and is just as deadly and dangerous in the wrong hands.”

People are even able to 3D print their own guns with easy to purchase 3d-printers. Many designers have uploaded to different free and small fee sites, making it easier than ever to make your own gun from home.

Why are they in the News?

One of the issues that people have with Ghost Guns is that, when a frame or receiver is slightly unfinished, they don’t need to be registered and are hence unregulated by the government. These types of kits are not regulated, have no restrictions or limitations on the type of people who can purchase them, are relatively cheap and easy to purchase, and tend to be marketed to people who want to avoid background checks.

Those groups who oppose Ghost Guns and the NRA both agree that the government “should enforce the laws on the books and arrest and prosecute criminals who break the law.” The issue they seem to disagree on, however, is how the government should enforce these laws. Those groups who oppose Ghost Guns want the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) to include unfinished frames and receivers under the definition of a firearm. Hence, they will be able to regulate the purchase of these kits and limit the people who can have access to these unfinished guns. The NRA, however, is of the mind that since the founding of our nation, people have been able to build their own guns and this right should not be infringed.

What Has Our Legislation Attempted in Order to Combat This Issue?

Our legislation has modernized some of our previous laws and implemented new restrictions in an attempt to combat potential mass shootings. Those who are not allowed to purchase handguns, but do it anyways through Ghost Guns, are still being figured out in our State.

For those who may not be aware, the Legislation passed a huge reform after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In 2018, they passed the MSDHS Public Safety Act, and among other things, required that at least one officer had to be present at each and every school, implemented new requirements for mental health services and training, as well as new changes to the Written Threats Crime law to help prevent new Mass Shootings before they occur.

Under Florida Statute Section 863.10, it is a crime for any person to send, post, or transmit, whether on paper, electronically, or in any other manner, something that includes:

  1. a threat to kill or do bodily harm to another person; or
  2. a threat to conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism.

This includes indirect threats through social media posts, videos, or stories. The Written Threat crime is classified as a second-degree felony and is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison or a fine not to exceed $10,000.

To read more about Written Threat Crimes in Florida, you can visit our blog here.

But what has the Legislation done specifically towards preventing Ghost Guns? Well, last year State Sen. Linda Stewart helped draft a bill that would help control Ghost Guns from being 3D printed. Under Senate Bill 372, the legislation would have required 3d-printed firearms to contain at least four ounces of metal and would have prohibited the type of plastics used that can withstand the pulling of the firearm trigger. The bill unfortunately died in the judiciary and has not been brought up again.

This year, under Senate Bill 860, State Sen. Linda Stewart attempted to pass a different bill dealing with firearms without a unique serial number or identifying mark, AKA “Ghost Guns.” The bill would have required those people who put together Ghost Guns to apply to the Department of Law Enforcement for a unique serial number or other mark of ID within 10 days of manufacturing or assembling their firearm. The bill also tried once again to require guns made from polymer plastic to be embedded with at least 3.7 ounces of stainless steel and a unique serial number. Unfortunately for State Sen. Linda Stewart, this bill also died in the Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee is a more or less permanent committee that considers and refines legislative bills that fall under their subject matter. The Judiciary Committee examines bills in a wide subject matter, including Civil law matters, legislation that tries to change the State’s Constitution, and some Criminal law matters. They review the work of the state agencies concerned with their subject area, invite certain individuals to give their opinions or submit information, and can request reports from departments that are reasonably related to their jurisdictions.

While making an untraceable firearm is not illegal yet, that does not change the fact that certain people are prohibited from possessing a gun. Including those regulated by the government and Ghost Guns.

I’ve been charged with Illegal Possession of a Firearm, Help!

Once you’ve been convicted of a felony offense in Florida, you become unable to possess a firearm or ammunition in our State. Not only is it illegal for convicted felons to possess a firearm, but they face harsh consequences if they are found guilty of unlawfully possessing one.

Under Florida Statute Section 790.23, any felon or juvenile delinquent is prohibited from possessing a firearm, ammo, or electric weapons or devices. This includes both actual and constructive possession. Actual Possession occurs when the weapon is found on the person, such as in a pocket. Constructive possession, on the other hand, means that the weapon is found in a place where the offender could have had control of it, such as the glove compartment of their car.

A person who is found guilty of actual or constructive possession is charged with a second-degree felony and can serve up to 15 years in prison and/or face fines of up to $10,000. To learn more about being Charged with Possession of a Firearm as a Convicted felon, you can visit our blog here.

If, however, the person qualifies for the penalty enhancements under Florida Statute Section 874.04, which deals with gang-related offenses, this offense is upgraded to a first-degree felony. They can be punished by a term of years not exceeding life and/or face fines of up to $10,000. A crime is considered a gang-related offense when they are committed for the purpose of (1) benefiting, (2) promoting, or (3) furthering the interests of a criminal gang.

A person who meets two or more of the following criteria is considered a “criminal gang member”:

(a) Admits to criminal gang membership.

(b) Is identified as a criminal gang member by a parent or guardian.

(c) Is identified as a criminal gang member by a documented reliable informant.

(d) Adopts the style of dress of a criminal gang.

(e) Adopts the use of a hand sign identified as used by a criminal gang.

(f) Has a tattoo identified as used by a criminal gang.

(g) Associates with one or more known criminal gang members.

(h) Is identified as a criminal gang member by an informant of previously untested reliability and such identification is corroborated by independent information.

(i) Is identified as a criminal gang member by physical evidence.

(j) Has been observed in the company of one or more known criminal gang members four or more times. Observation in a custodial setting requires a willful association. It is the intent of the Legislature to allow this criterion to be used to identify gang members who recruit and organize in jails, prisons, and other detention settings.

(k) Has authored any communication indicating responsibility for the commission of any crime by the criminal gang.

To learn more about the criminal enhancements of gang-related offenses, visit our blog here.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a serious firearm crime, such as unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon or are facing a possible enhancement due to an allegation of gang involvement, contact an aggressive and knowledgeable Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to formulate a strategy.

 Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience defending Floridians against all types of misdemeanor and felony offenses and will ensure every defense applicable is explored in your favor.

Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

Written by Jesus Lozano

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