Attorney General Letitia James and Mayor Adams announced Wednesday that they’ve filed two separate lawsuits against ghost gun distributors whose tactics have resulted in illegal firearms landing in the hands of criminals.
James and Adams made the joint announcement beside a table covered with handguns — one of which was used in the shooting of Angellyh Yambo, a 16-year-old Bronx girl who died after being shot in April.
“Today, we are saying not in our state. We will lead the nation in fighting against these guns,” Adams said. “We are not going to let gun companies turn New York into a city of mail-ordered murder.”
The lawsuits target out-of-state online weapons distributors that the attorney general and the city Law Department are accusing of violating the state’s gun licensing laws, selling weapons to felons without a background check and selling components used in making untraceable guns.
The lawsuits come less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a New York State law restricting the use of concealed firearms.
So-called ghost guns are typically sold in parts and are untraceable because the components come without serial numbers.
In the attorney general’s lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court’s Commercial Division, James accuses 80 Percent Arms, Brownells Inc., Glockstore and several other entities of aiming to subvert federal firearms laws by directing unfinished gun frames and receivers “into the hands of people who cannot and should not possess them.”
“Because these unfinished frames or receivers purportedly fall outside the federal definition of a ‘firearm’ … defendants sell them directly to consumers without following any of the federal laws and regulations that apply to the sale of guns,” the lawsuit states.
In her remarks Wednesday, James said this is, in fact, a selling point for some of the distributors.
“Evading public safety measures is one of the main marketing and selling points,” James said. “80 Percent Arms writes on its website: ‘That means no red tape, including no registering … no transfer fees like a typical firearm, and even better, no FFL required. It ships right to your door.’”
An FFL refers to a Federal Firearms License, which requires that the federal government’s licensing center conduct background checks.
“This is a clear violation of federal law,” James said.
The city’s lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court Wednesday, focuses on the fact that ghost guns are sold online “without the background checks legally mandated for all gun sales in New York.” This, the lawsuit claims, makes them more enticing to an illicit market, including “felons, domestic abusers [and] children — anyone barred by law from acquiring guns.”
The defendants named in that lawsuit include Arm or Ally, Rainier Arms and Indie Guns.
To build its case, the city’s Sheriff’s Office deployed undercover investigators to procure the ghost guns online. In one transaction, an investigator placed an order with Arm or Ally for an unfinished frame. According to the lawsuit, the Missouri-based company didn’t perform a background check and did not require a valid state or city license or permit.
James suggested that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling would not interfere with her lawsuit, claiming the defendants were found to be “in violation of federal, state and local law.”
Some of the guns at James’ and Adams’ press conference Wednesday were procured through undercover investigators with the Sheriff’s Office. At least one of them was used in a crime.
“This is the gun that murdered young Angellyh,” Adams said, pointing to one of the handguns. “We will not stand by and allow these companies to flout the law, endanger our communities and kill our young people.”
Angellyh Yambo’s mother Yanely Henriquez said Wednesday that she still hasn’t processed losing her daughter.
“Your companies are to blame for selling these guns,” she said. “Angellyh brought so much light and love into my life. And now, unfortunately, I have to start a new life without my daughter.”