New York officials on Wednesday filed charges against 10 companies that sell parts for untraceable firearms known as ghost weapons, under a new state law intended to hold the gun industry accountable for shootings.
Two lawsuits, filed separately by the Attorney General’s Office, Letitia James, and the New York City Legal Department accuse the companies of illegally selling tens of thousands of firearms frames and receivers over the past five years that were used to make high-style firearms, helping fuel a gun violence crisis across the state.
The lawsuits, the first under state law passed last year, open a new chapter in Democrats’ efforts to crack down on firearms companies amid rising gun violence, despite opposition from the industry and its Republican allies.
They were filed six days after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority rejected a law in New York requiring gun owners to publicly demonstrate a special need to carry guns, a decision many Democrats and gun safety advocates predicted would lead to firearms. would lead to more violence.
The Supreme Court ruling came as New York City struggled with a surge in gun violence during the pandemic, punctuated this year by mass shootings in the Brooklyn subway, at a grocery store in Buffalo and near the Harlem River waterfront.
“While families mourned loved ones lost to senseless gun violence, gun sellers avoided responsibility for the illegal and dangerous weapons they sold,” Ms James said in a statement, adding that her office would “use every tool to eradicate them.” .”
Ghost guns have been used as a burgeoning threat fueling gun violence in New York and other states with strict gun laws. The weapons, which are sold in parts that can be easily assembled into controllable weapons using a drill, lack the serial numbers that allow weapons to be traced to the buyer and are sold online and at gun shows without proper background checks.
The city has said that ghost weapons are appearing in the city at an alarming rate. The number of ghost weapons recovered by police has risen from 17 in 2018 to 263 in 2021. This year, police have seized 175 ghost weapons so far – 9 percent of all recovered weapons.
New York last year passed laws banning the unlicensed sale of ghost guns and requiring gunsmiths to register any weapons or frames they assemble. The office of Mrs. James sent cease and desist orders to 28 ghost gun dealers earlier this month. It was unclear whether any of the companies indicted on Wednesday had received any warnings.
The attorney general’s lawsuit, filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court, lists 10 companies as defendants: Brownells, Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, Salvo Technologies, GS Performance, Indie Guns LLC, Primary Arms, Arm or Ally, Rainier Arms, KM Tactical and Rock Slide UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The New York City legal department has also sued five of those companies in federal court in Manhattan. Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement that the companies had sold and delivered ghost weapon parts to addresses in the city.
“We will not stand by as illegal operators break the law, endanger our communities and kill our young people,” he said.
Several of the companies named in the lawsuits sold parts used to assemble weapons used in deadly shootings, including an April incident that killed Angellyh Yambo, 16, and injured two other teenagers. as they walked home from school in the Bronx.
Since 2005, federal law has shielded gun manufacturers from most lawsuits seeking to hold them accountable for injuries or deaths. But the law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, contains an exception for cases where the seller knowingly violates laws regulating the sale or marketing of firearms.
New York lawmakers took advantage of that exception to create a path for the state, cities and individuals affected by gun violence to sue manufacturers, distributors and retailers for damages. The law classifies the improper and illegal sale of firearms as a public nuisance.
In May, a federal judge dismissed a challenge from some members of the arms industry who claimed the law would be used unfairly to hold them accountable for the behavior of criminals who misuse their weapons. An appeal is pending.
Three states — California, Delaware and New Jersey — are considering or have taken action modeled on New York law.
But nationally, the scales remain tilted in favor of the arms industry. On Tuesday, Delaware became the first state to repeal a law modeled on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but similar measures remain in effect in 34 other states, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.