Guns made at home using unfinished receivers are known as “ghost guns.” They earned this nickname because they lack serial numbers and are thus untraceable when they’re recovered after being used in a crime.
Ghost guns are assembled at home and often sold in kits that include all of the necessary parts to turn the unfinished frame or receiver—the piece of the firearm that contains the operating parts of the firing mechanism—into a fully functioning gun.
Both handguns and assault weapons can be made as ghost guns.
Nevada banned ghost guns with the passage and signing into law of Assembly Bill 286 during the 2021 session of the Nevada Legislature. Now, however, gun rights organization Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) is suing Gov. Steve Sisolak in an attempt to stop the law from taking effect.
The lawsuit names Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo as defendants.
Sisolak signed AB 286 into law on June 7. Certain provisions laid out in the bill have already gone into effect. The provisions prohibiting the ownership, purchase, transport, sale or transfer of unfinished receivers is not set to go into effect until January 2022, however.
FPC’s complaint, filed on June 10, alleges that Nevada’s ban on ghost guns is unconstitutional and “imposes a blanket prohibition against a broad class of protected arms in common use for self-defense and other lawful purposes by ordinary law-abiding citizens like the Plaintiffs.”
The statistics do not corroborate the claim that law-abiding citizens are the ones making and using ghost guns. In 2019, law enforcement recovered about 10,000 ghost guns. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reported in 2019 that nearly a third of all weapons recovered from crimes in California were ghost guns.
President Joe Biden has said he will direct the Justice Department to propose a rule to curb their production.
“Nevada’s broad ban on the possession and construction of constitutionally protected firearms and precursor materials violates Nevadans’ Second Amendment rights and unlawfully deprives them of their property, in violation of the Constitution,” said Adam Kraut, FPC’s Senior Director of Legal Operations. “In order for a law-abiding individual to exercise their Second Amendment rights, they must have the ability to possess firearms, including those they build themselves.”
At least one Nevada manufacturer, Dayton-based Polymer80, has drawn attention from the ATF, whose agents raided it in December. The City of Los Angeles in February also filed suit against the company. Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer called ghost guns “the emerging weapon of choice for criminals.”
The sponsor of AB 286, Assembly member Sandra Jauregui, is a survivor of the 2017 Route 91 mass shooting in Las Vegas during which 58 people died and hundreds were injured.
She told her fellow legislators during hearings on the bill that, despite surviving the massacre, hers and her family members’ lives had changed forever, Las Vegas had been devastated, and the specter of violence still haunts people who were “here visiting Las Vegas to have an exciting, fun, memorable trip.”
“Continued violent incidents have left both Nevadans and Las Vegas visitors questioning the safety of our community,” she said.AB 286 bill drew more opinions submitted through the Legislature’s website than any other during the 2021 session and was passed on purely partisan lines.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.