Federal lawsuit against online retailers illegally selling deadly ghost gun components

Sylvia Hinds-Radix
New York City Corporation Counsel, Sylvia Hinds-Radix.
Sylvia Hinds-Radix

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel, Sylvia Hinds-Radix on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against five online retailers that have and continue to illegally sell and deliver gun components that are used to assemble illegal and untraceable firearms — known as ghost guns — into the city.

As detailed in the lawsuit, five retailers based in Missouri, Washington, Florida and North Carolina advertised and sold through their websites unfinished frames, receivers and ghost gun kits to an investigator from the New York City Sheriff’s Office.

Adams said the gun components were shipped directly to an address in New York City, in violation of New York state and New York City laws, making such sales illegal. These gun components are easily assembled into illegal, untraceable, deadly weapons.

“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,” he added. “We will not stand by while illegal operators flout the law, endanger our communities, and kill our young people.”

“It is illegal under state and city law to sell the components that are needed to make untraceable guns — and yet, after just a few clicks on a website, these defendants sell and deliver such parts into New York City,” said Barbadian-born Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix. “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.

“Those prohibited from owning weapons should not be able to circumvent the law to purchase them online,” she added. “The companies should be forced to assist the city in recovering the illegal, untraceable ghost guns they delivered here. Those guns endanger the public and undermine law enforcement efforts.”

“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,” said New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda. “We continue to work in close partnership with the New York City Law Department and our 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 L. Sewell said “this legal strategy is the next logical step in an all-out fight the NYPD joined long ago in standing up a Ghost Gun Task Force, raising awareness about this increasing societal problem and working with our City Council partners to pass the local laws this welcome court action stands upon.

“And 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,” she added. “We will continue it until we wipe these illegal guns out and stop the plastic pipeline into our communities, because these guns shoot real bullets. 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,” Sewell continued.

New York City’s complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York against defendants: Arm or Ally, based in Kansas City, Missouri; Rainier Arms, based in North Auburn, Washington; 80P Builder, based in Largo, Florida; Rock Slide USA, based in Broadway, North Carolina; and Indie Guns, based in Orlando, Florida.

New York City’s lawsuit was filed simultaneously to a separate lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney General Letitia James against 10 defendants in New York State Supreme Court for fueling the gun violence crisis and endangering New Yorkers.

James’ comprehensive 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 un-serialized, 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. “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,” she added. “Illegal guns do not belong on our streets or in our communities and we will use every tool necessary to root them out.”

“On Friday, the 8th of April, 2022, at 1:45 p.m., my 16-year-old daughter, Angellyh Yambo, life was taken by a single bullet by a ghost gun that your company manufactured as she was heading home after leaving school,” said Yanelly Henriquez, mother of Angellyh Yambo, victim of ghost gun shooting. “Angellyh unfairly left this world without saying ‘I love you or goodbye’ to her loved ones.

“I still have yet to deal with the loss of my daughter and my shattered heart that will never heal, and also of having to live on with the memories of Angellyh,” she added. “Your companies are to blame for selling these ghost guns that took my precious daughter’s life only to profit for your gain.

“Angellyh brought so much light and love into my life, and now, I have to start a new life without my daughter,” Henriquez continued. “The family is lost for words and heartbroken and has to live with that affliction forever. Your companies are at fault for the damage because of their lack of background checks, having no permit for one to purchase the revolver, and their unethical access to underage teenagers.”

According to New York City’s complaint, the five ghost gun retailers delivered gun components and gun kits to a Sheriff’s Office undercover investigator at a Manhattan address, when such sales were already illegal under city and state law.

Orders included so-called “unfinished” frames or receivers, also referred to as “80 percent” frames or receivers, which do not have serial numbers.

The frames are offered for sale in kits, which allow a person — using commonly available tools — to assemble receivers and frames into fully-functioning, untraceable handguns.

The mayor said the Sheriff’s Office easily assembled a fully-functioning gun from the components and kits.

He said similar components are available to assemble semi-automatic assault weapons.

Adams said ghost guns sold into New York City have ended up in the hands of convicted felons and other prohibited and unlicensed possessors, as well as underage purchasers.

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