Cellphone Gun: Is It Legal?

A product that caused a lot of stir last year when the concept was initially floated—a “cellphone gun”—is available for pre-order. The cellphone look-a-like that transforms into a firearm raises a number of questions from concealed carriers, who first want to know: “Is it legal?”

To get that and other questions answered, we picked up the phone and shot some questions to Michele Byington, an Independent Program Attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington.

“The main concern for this firearm is essentially whether or not it is a NFA regulated item,” Michele 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 Michele, “a special piece of paper the ATF gives you to prove you suffered through their registration process.”

One such type of item that must be registered is an “AOW,” or “Any Other Weapon.” “But don’t freak out,” Michele 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.

Michele stated 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.”

Michele closed by pointing out that it was equally possible the ATF could shock everyone and 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 cellphone gun on hold until we have more information.  — Texas & U.S. Law Shield Staff