Legality of the Cellphone Gun: Answer or Hang Up?

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Shooters may have seen media coverage regarding the “cellphone gun,” which is a cellphone look-a-like that transforms into a firearm. The maker, IdealConceal.com, says, “The ground breaking Ideal Conceal is a carefully engineered double barreled .380 caliber people can safely carry in their purse or clipped to their side. Ingeniously designed to resemble a smartphone, yet with one click of the safety it opens and is ready to fire.”

IdealConceal.com's cellphone look-a-like transforms into a double-barreled .380 caliber firearm.
IdealConceal.com’s cellphone look-a-like transforms into a double-barreled .380 caliber firearm.

As it begins to enter production, many are asking, “Is it a legal handgun?”

To get these questions answered, we picked up the phone and shot some questions to Michele Byington, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington in Houston.

“The main concern for this firearm is essentially whether or not it is a NFA regulated item,” Byington said. She elaborated that under the NFA (National Firearms Act), there are certain weapons that are felonies to possess without properly registering it with the ATF, and receiving a tax stamp.

A tax stamp is, according to Byington, “a special piece of paper the ATF gives you to prove you suffered through their registration process.”

One such item that must be registered is an “AOW,” or “Any Other Weapon.”

“But don’t freak out,” Byington says, “‘Any other weapon’ is not what it sounds like.” She went on to explain that the phrase AOW was sort of a catch-all category; the definition states that an AOW is “any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive.”

This term includes quite a few things, but the most important for this discussion includes the classification of cane guns, umbrella guns, and pen guns as AOWs. In other words, the term AOW includes items that seem like they come straight from a James Bond movie.

Byington said that, at first glance, this gun disguised as a cellphone could easily stand shoulder to shoulder with items such as umbrella guns, pen guns, and the like. “The only problem is that, when asked for clarification, the ATF stated that they waiting until the gun was actually manufactured before determining its classification.”

This means that if you bought the gun, and later the ATF ruled it was an AOW, you would be violating federal (and most likely, state) law until you registered the gun. “This isn’t a quick process either; the ATF’s turnaround time right now is between six and nine months, which is a long time to hope no one finds out you’re committing a federal felony,” Byington said.

Byington pointed out that it was equally possible the ATF could declare the cellphone gun not to be an AOW; but at the moment, no one can say with any certainty how this specific weapon will be viewed under the law, so it may be worth putting the purchase of a cellphone gun on hold until the gun’s status has been decided by ATF.

How do you think ATF will rule: Is the cellphone gun a regular old handgun, or the much-heavier-regulated AOW? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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