NY, NYC sue gun distributors, alleging illegal sale of parts used in ghost guns

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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New York's Attorney General and New York City are suing several U.S. gun distributors, accusing the retailers of knowingly selling illegal gun parts.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York's Attorney General and New York City are suing several U.S. gun sellers, accusing the distributors of knowingly selling illegal gun parts to addresses across the state and city that led to the creation of ghost guns.

Brownell, Indie Guns, Primary Arms, and Rock Slide are among the companies named in the suits for allegedly selling illegal, unfinished frames and receivers.

Attorney General Letitia James says these gun parts are bought and assembled into untraceable handguns and assault-style rifles, which are commonly referred to as ghost guns.

Officials said the companies named in the suits were traced back to hundreds of illegal shipments believed to include frames, receivers, and kits for unserialized guns across New York state.

The suits accuse these manufacturers of flooding streets with ghost guns and failing to make sure their products didn't fall into the wrong hands.

"While families mourned loved ones lost to senseless gun violence, gun sellers avoided accountability for the illegal and dangerous weapons they sold," James said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "My office's lawsuit holds 10 gun sellers accountable for fueling the gun violence crisis and endangering New Yorkers."

ALSO READ | Ghost guns: Eyewitness News investigates a growing menace

The New York City lawsuit details several instances in which the named gun distributors allegedly delivered gun components and kits to an undercover investigator at a Manhattan address.

"We are not going to let gun companies turn New York City into a city of mail-order murder," Mayor Eric Adams said. "Whether they are hidden in the trunks of cars or packed in a plain brown box, ghost guns are illegal in our city, and we will take every lawful action possible to stop gun retailers from profiting at the expense of the safety of our city."

One of the largest shipments came from gun retailer Rainier Arms, which delivered 846 packages believed to contain illegal gun parts to purchasers in New York state between January 2021 and April 2022.

At least 69 of those packages were shipped to addresses in New York City during that period, officials said.

Lawmakers and police officials have pointed to ghost guns as being a big reason behind the surge in gun violence and gun-related crimes, especially in larger cities.

"These guns shoot real bullets," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. "They hurt New Yorkers. They cause real harm. They are insidious, untraceable weapons. And we will fight until common sense prevails and the rights of victims are put first, and these personally-made firearms are eradicated, once and for all."

The unfinished frames and receivers lack serial numbers and only need to be slightly adjusted with common tools to be transformed from an unfinished receiver to a fully functional one.

Receivers hold the top, bottom, and rear portions of a semi-automatic rifle.

Companies named in both lawsuits sold the parts to people with criminal records or other disqualifying conditions, according to the state lawsuit.

In one instance, Brownells, 80 Percent Arms, and KM Tactical delivered orders to an individual living in New York who was a member of a far-right, militia-style organization with a history of political violence, the attorney general's office said.

NYPD investigators later recovered two unserialized completed guns, 11 high-capacity magazines, four additional unfinished frames, and receivers, as well as other gunmaking tools, from where he was staying.

In another instance, officials say one customer with a criminal background who was legally ineligible to own a firearm received shipments from Brownells, Glockstore, and Primary Arms.

That same month, that customer allegedly used a ghost gun in a triple shooting that killed one person and injured two others in the Bronx.

ALSO READ | Alleged gun trafficker accused of hauling dozens of firearms from North Carolina to NYC

Some of the businesses named in the suit also acknowledge how easy it is to evade public safety measures when purchasing the gun components.

"This means no RED TAPE including: NO Registering an 80% Lower, NO Transfer fees like a typical firearm, NO FFL Required, Ships right to your door," 80 Percent Arms has posted on its website.

"You can build a completely legal handgun without any 'government oversight' aka interference," Glockstore claims on its site. "No fuss, no muss, no registration, no records."

The state lawsuit seeks to ban the companies from selling, shipping, and distributing unfinished frames or receivers to New York as well as restitutions and damages for endangering public safety.

New York City is also asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction, ordering the defendants to immediately stop selling ghost guns into New York City.

Through the Sherriff Office's undercover investigation, officials say they've found five gun manufacturers ignored the city's restrictions on the purchase of ghost guns set in place in February 2020.

"Through our undercover investigation, we were able to identify five retailers selling parts to these deadly weapons online, in violation of city and state law," New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda said.

The city lawsuit also asks that the court require the sellers to provide information on the addresses that have received ghost gun shipments.

Indie Guns, of Orlando, is represented by attorney Christian Waugh, who called the lawsuits an "absolutely a politically-motivated effort" and "a concerted but groundless attempt to once again burden and limit the rights of New York City residents."

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