On June 29, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix announced a lawsuit against five online retailers that they allege continue to illegally sell and deliver gun components that are used to assemble illegal and untraceable firearms — otherwise known as ghost guns — that city authorities say are a significant contributor to the gun violence plaguing the city.
According to a press release on the matter five retailers based in Missouri, Washington, Florida, and North Carolina “advertised and sold through websites unfinished frames, receivers, and ghost gun kits to an [undercover] investigator from the New York City Sheriff’s Office.”
The lawsuit alleges that the gun components were shipped directly to an address in New York City, in violation of New York state and city laws which make such firearm sales illegal.
“These gun components are easily assembled into illegal, untraceable, deadly weapons,” the press release reads.
“We are not going to let gun companies turn New York City into a city of mail-order murder,” said Mayor Adams. “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. That’s why, this morning, we filed a lawsuit against five online gun retailers that are illegally selling and delivering ghost gun components to addresses here in this city. We will not stand by while illegal operators flout the law, endanger our communities, and kill our young people.”
Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix said that it is illegal under state and city law to sell components that are required to assemble untraceable guns and lamented how easy it is to order illegal components online.
“Sadly, people in our city, including children, have been shot or killed with ghost guns. We’re asking the court to immediately stop the sale and delivery into the city of these illegal gun components,” she said, adding that, “Those prohibited from owning weapons should not be able to circumvent the law to purchase them online. The companies should be forced to assist the city in recovering illegal, untraceable ghost guns they delivered here.”
New York City Sheriff, Anthony Miranda, said that through an undercover investigation his team was able to identify the retailers selling the parts and promised he would work in “close partnership” with the New York City Law Department and other law enforcement partners to “hold these retailers accountable for willfully endangering the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers.”
New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the legal strategy was the “next logical step” in an “all-out fight” against ghost guns on New York City streets. “We vow to continue this fight on the city’s streets, before our judges, and in every law enforcement, regulatory, and public policy arena possible,” Sewell said according to the press release.
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The five online retailers named in the lawsuit are Arm or Ally, Rainier Arms, 80P Builder, Rock Slide USA and Indie Guns.
The lawsuit was filed simultaneously with another lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James against 10 defendants who James says are “fueling the gun violence crisis and endangering New Yorkers.”
James’ lawsuit alleges that 10 out-of-state gun distributors sold “tens of thousands of illegal, unfinished frames and receivers to New Yorkers that were then converted into unserialized, untraceable handguns and assault-style weapons.”
“While families mourned loved ones lost to senseless gun violence, gun sellers avoided accountability for the illegal and dangerous weapons they sold,” said Attorney General James via the press release. “There should be no more immunity for gun distributors bringing harm and havoc to New York. My office’s lawsuit holds 10 gun sellers accountable for fueling the gun violence crisis and endangering New Yorkers. Illegal guns do not belong on our streets or in our communities and we will use every tool necessary to root them out,” she said.
Hundreds of packages delivered
According to the city’s lawsuit, Arm or Ally shipped at least 511 packages, which authorities believe included illegal frames and receivers, to New York state between January 3, 2021 and June 7, 2022 and at least 36 of these packages were sent to addresses in New York City.
It appears that Arm or Ally shipped five of the packages, over the course of 45 days, to a New York City resident who was later arrested for possession of 14 ghost guns, including seven handguns and seven AR-style rifles.
The lawsuit also alleges that between July 2020 and October 2021, Arm and Ally may have sold nine ghost gun components to a city resident who was subsequently indicted in Manhattan on at least 29 counts of violating the city’s prohibition on possession of unfinished frames and receivers.
“Ghost gun retailer 80P Builder, from Largo, Florida, delivered at least 258 packages, which are believed to include packages with illegal frames and receivers, into New York state between April 21, 2021 and May 26, 2021, including at least 65 packages shipped to addresses in New York City,” the press release states.
This is in addition to hundreds of other packages sent by several other online retailers that found their way to both New York state and the five boroughs.
Ghost guns a trending risk
Per the press release, the NYPD says that over the past five years more and more ghost guns are being found circulating on New York City streets.
In 2018, 48 ghost guns were seized. In 2019, 150 guns were seized and in 2020, 263 illegal, untraceable guns were found.
As of June 26 this year, 180 ghost guns have been found, an 181 percent increase over the same time period last year.
New York City is asking the courts to issue a preliminary injunction that is intended to immediately stop online retailers selling ghost gun components to New York residents.
It has been illegal to sell ghost guns in New York City since February 2020 however the Sheriff Office’s undercover investigation found that several out-of-state online retailers are ignoring the city’s restrictions.