Last updated on October 9th, 2023
Americans have enjoyed the freedom to make their own firearms since before the Declaration of Independence was signed. After over 240 years of these United States, Governor Pritzker and other Illinois politicians have decided that now homemade firearms need to be heavily restricted. Homemade firearms are rarely used in violent crime, thus the reality is the Illinois government wants to be able to track what guns we own, and has mandated that homemade firearms need to be serialized and recorded.
These homemade firearms have been deemed “Ghost Guns” by the civilian disarmament advocates who nibble away at our rights. We see this tactic time and time again, giving a class of firearm a scary name in an attempt to demonize the item and woo support for the ban. So let’s discuss the Illinois ghost gun ban which recently was signed into law by Governor Pritzker.
We’ll start this article by explaining the law as written. Please understand that I am not a lawyer and nothing here should be considered legal advice. This is simply my lay-man opinion as I see it. Also, this seems like an appropriate time to remind you that one may be arrested for any reason or no reason at all. The letter of the law then becomes your defense in court. We truly are guilty until proven innocent. After we discuss the law, I’ll also answer some of the frequently asked questions I’ve seen while surfing the interweb gun groups.
If you wish to read the full text of the Illinois ghost gun ban, you can read HB4383 on the ILGA website. This article is written for the average gun owner. If you are an FFL, I’d recommend reading the full text as there are things you need to know which aren’t pertinent to the average gun owner and thus were excluded from this article.
Illinois law Regulating Home Made Firearms
Only federally licensed firearm manufacturers and importers may engrave your homemade firearm. That means most of your average gun shops won’t be able to engrave serial numbers. Manufacturers have a 07 federal license, importers have a 08 license, and dealers usually have a 01 license.
The frame or receiver is what needs the serial number. Originally written more broadly, the first iteration of Illinois’ “ghost gun” ban would have inadvertently banned the very popular Sig Sauer P320. An amendment was later introduced to clear up this language and now a receiver is defined as:
…a part of a firearm that, when the complete weapon is assembled, is visible from the exterior and provides housing or a structure designed to hold or integrate one or more fire control components, even if pins or other attachments are required to connect those components to the housing or structure. For models of firearms in which multiple parts provide such housing or structure, the part or parts that the Director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined are a frame or receiver constitute the frame or receiver. For purposes of this definition, “fire control component” means a component necessary for the firearm to initiate, complete, or continue the firing sequence, including any of the following: hammer, bolt, bolt carrier, breechblock, cylinder, trigger mechanism, firing pin, striker, or slide rails.https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=072000050HArt%2E+24&ActID=1876&ChapterID=53&SeqStart=68600000&SeqEnd=72000000
Illinois’ ban on homemade firearms specifically attacks “undetectable firearms” which are firearms made mostly of plastic that can’t be found on metal detectors or other body scanning devices. This ban reminds me of the hysteria following the Bruce Willis “Die Hard” movies when he said Glocks were untraceable and made of ceramic, and people actually tried to ban Glock pistols because of a line in a movie. While all-plastic homemade firearms are possible, they aren’t practical and are single-use only.
Beginning around June 17th, it will be illegal to possess an unserialized frame or receiver if it was made using a 3-d printer.
Beginning around November 14 2022 it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly possess, transport, or receive a homemade firearm without a serial number that was imprinted by a 07 or 08 FFL. This also applies to unfinished frames or receivers, thus “80% receivers” have been banned unless serialized by a 07 or 08 FFL and purchased from a gun store. 80% receivers are receivers that are mostly finished by the manufacturer, however, the end-user finishes the process of drilling holes or cutting away materials to complete the receiver.
There are some exemptions. For example, if the frame or receiver has been rendered permanently inoperable, the firearm is defined as an antique under federal law, the homemade firearm was manufactured before October 1968, or a temporary exemption for inheritance.
Illinois says that the size, shape, and depth of the serial number must comply with federal law. So that asks what is federal law in regards to serial numbers. Past federal law did not require homemade firearms to be serialized. Though Biden’s administration recently announced a rule that will require all 80% receivers sold to be serialized, starting around July 2022. However, firearms that are manufactured by licensed manufacturers are required to have a serial number, and those serial numbers meet the following criteria:
(1) By engraving, casting, stamping (impressing), or otherwise conspicuously placing or causing to be engraved, cast, stamped (impressed) or placed on the frame or receiver thereof an individual serial number. The serial number must be placed in a manner not susceptible of being readily obliterated, altered, or removed, and must not duplicate any serial number placed by you on any other firearm. For firearms manufactured, imported, or made on and after January 30, 2002, the engraving, casting, or stamping (impressing) of the serial number must be to a minimum depth of .003 inch and in a print size no smaller than 1/16 inch;§ 479.102
Further, Illinois law prescribes a specific format that the licensed manufacturer or importer must follow when placing the serial number, which includes a portion of the FFL’s license number.
A person caught in possession of an unserialized frame or receiver on a scary homemade ghost gun will be charged with a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for the second offense. However, if you are caught trying to sell an unserialized homemade firearm you’ll be charged with a felony.
Illinois Ghost Gun Ban FAQ
As of right now, there are only two locations I am aware of that are engraving serial numbers on homemade firearms. If you know of any other manufacturer or importer who is engraving serial numbers, please comment or contact us and we will update this list.
BAT Arms – Plano, IL
LAW Weapons – Naperville, IL
Krios Engraving – Geneseo, IL
18 USC § 921(a)(16)
(16) The term “antique firearm” means— (A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; or (B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica— (i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or (ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade; or (C) any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “antique firearm” shall not include any weapon which incorporates a firearm frame or receiver, any firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or any muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof.
If one inherits an unserialized homemade firearm they shall have 30 days to serialize the frame or receiver.
Crime statistics surrounding homemade firearms are hard to find. There are numerous reports of confiscations of ghost guns. However, even the rabidly anti-freedom “Everytown” published statistics show that seldom are ghost guns ever actually used to commit a violent crime. From the Everytown Research website…
“…ghost guns had been linked to 24 murders, eight attempted murders, 20 robberies and 60 assaults with a deadly weapon by the end of last November.”
That’s a national statistic by the way. A statistic for a nation that has a population of nearly 330 million and has over 24,000 homicides annually. Less than 1% of 1% of killers in the United States used a homemade firearm.
By definition criminals don’t obey the law and therefore all gun laws only serve to affect and hinder the rights of non-violent gun owners. It is unlikely this ban has any effect on crime other than to make enthusiasts, hobbyists, and otherwise law-abiding gun owners into criminals.
Immediately after passage of this law by the Illinois state legislature the Firearm Policy Coalition tweeted “We will see you soon.” Though to my knowledge no law suit has been filed yet.
Some images on this website have been taken from DefCAD a leader in the homemade firearm hobby.