Ghost guns crisis: New York officials target sellers in state, federal courts

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in state court against 10 national gun distributors saying they have fueled the gun crisis and put New Yorkers in danger. These gun distributors sold and shipped ghost gun parts to New York addresses, according to the attorney general.

"These companies only exist to provide these weapons to individuals who are otherwise ineligible to own a gun or basically want to evade any sort of basic federal or state controls," James said. "And as we've seen the consequences are absolutely dire. Heartbreaking."

At the same time, Mayor Eric Adams also filed a lawsuit in federal court against five of these gun distributors for illegally selling and delivering ghost gun components to addresses in New York City.

These guns have been linked to shootings and murders in the city, according to the mayor.

"We are asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction ordering the defendants to immediately stop sending ghost guns to New York City," Adams said. "We need immediate action. Every day a new gun is shipped here, it potentially can take an innocent life."

This includes the gun that took the life of 16-year-old Angellyh Yambo, who was shot outside her high school a few months ago. Her mother condemned these gun distributors. 

"Angellyh unfairly left this world without saying I love you or goodbye," Yanelli Henrriquez said. "Your company is to blame for selling these guns that took my precious daughter's life."

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A handgun component. (Photo via New York State Attorney General's Office)

This is the first time the state has filed a lawsuit under the new public nuisance law, which allows the state, local governments, and crime victims to file civil suits against the gunmakers and distributors if they fail to ensure their products aren't used in unlawful activity.

James said that these ghost guns are sold for about $150, can be purchased without a background check, and are shipped without serial numbers, which makes them harder to trace.

"Often step-by-step videos are included to show you how to convert these guns and they even offer a live helpline that customers can call," James said. "In the words of defendant 80 Percent Arms, 'This process of converting these receivers or framers into fully operable and untraceable firearms is ridiculously easy.'"

These lawsuits come at a significant time. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York's concealed carry law. And now state lawmakers are headed back to Albany on Thursday for a special session.

Coverage of Ghost Guns

The Supreme Court ruled that there could be "sensitive areas" where guns could be prohibited. So now state lawmakers will be voting on a bill that will define those "sensitive areas." This will likely include schools, hospitals, government buildings, places that serve alcohol, and mass transit.

Private businesses that allow customers or workers to carry firearms onto the premises will have to put up a sign that publicly states: "Conceal carry weapons welcomed here."

Lawmakers are expected to pass the bill on Thursday. 

Statement by the Attorney General

While families mourned loved ones lost to senseless gun violence, gun sellers avoided accountability for the illegal and dangerous weapons they sold. There should be no more immunity for gun distributors bringing harm and havoc to New York. Today’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. —New York Attorney General Letitia James

Statement by the Mayor

We are not going to let gun companies turn New York City into a city of mail-order murder. 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, the City of New York filed its own 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. —New York City Mayor Eric Adams