New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix today announced a lawsuit against five online retailers.
The retailers 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.
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. 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 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. 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.”
“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,” said New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “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. 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.”
New York City’s complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the 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.
Attorney General 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 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. “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.”
“On Friday, the 8th of April, 2022, at 1:45 PM, 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. 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. 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. I desperately wish I could turn back the hand of time to bring my daughter, Angellyh, back and tell her how much I love her, embrace her or spend time, but that’s unrealistic. I will have to pretend to have Angellyh physically here with me until we are reunited again.”
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 Sheriff’s Office easily assembled a fully-functioning gun from the components and kits. Similar components are available to assemble semi-automatic assault weapons.
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. Below are examples of illegal gun parts sold by two of the defendant ghost gun retailers.
According to the city’s lawsuit, in addition to sending illegal gun parts to a city investigator, Arm or Ally shipped at least 511 packages, which are believed to include packages with illegal frames and receivers, to buyers in New York state between January 3, 2021 and June 7, 2022, including at least 36 packages to addresses in New York City. Arm or Ally appears to have shipped five of those packages, over the course of 45 days, to a city resident later arrested in possession of 14 ghost guns, including seven handguns and seven AR-style rifles. In addition, between July 2020 and October 2021, Arm or Ally appears to have sold nine ghost gun components, including frames or receivers and completion parts kits, to a city resident later indicted in Manhattan on at least 29 counts of violating the city’s prohibition on possession of unfinished frames or 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. In 2021, at least four individuals arrested in New York City with ghost guns appear to have received one or more deliveries from 80P Builder, including a person arrested and charged with murder in 2022; a person arrested following a street encounter; a person arrested following a car stop; and a person who, after having received four deliveries from 80P Builders in 2021, was arrested in possession of three receivers pursuant to a search warrant executed by the NYPD’s Major Case Field Intelligence Team.
Ghost gun retailer Rainier Arms delivered at least 846 packages, which are believed to include packages with illegal frames and receivers, to purchasers located in New York state between January 4, 2021 and April 28, 2022, including at least 69 packages shipped to addresses in New York City during that period.
Ghost gun retailer Rock Slide USA completed two separate online orders via their website in May to an undercover investigator in the Sheriff’s Office of a Polymer80 PF940C unserialized, “unfinished” frame, a slide, an internal upper parts kit, a recoil spring and guide rod, a lower parts kit with trigger, and a 32-round magazine. In a separate order, the undercover investigator purchased an upper parts kit and a barrel to the same address in Manhattan as the first one. In neither case did Rock Slide USA perform a background check on the purchaser, and it did not require customers to have a valid state or city license or permit.
Ghost gun retailer Indie Guns is a high-volume seller of various glock-compatible ghost gun kits. A recent lawsuit involving Polymer80 and Indie Guns notes that in July 2021 Polymer80 sold and shipped more than 13,000 unserialized “80%” glock-compatible frame kits to Indie Guns. Indie Guns completed an online order to an undercover investigator in the Sheriff’s Office of a PF940V2 unserialized, “unfinished” frame, a frame parts kit with trigger assembly, a 17-round magazine, and a complete slide assembly to be delivered to an address in Manhattan. Indie Guns did not perform a background check on the purchaser and did not require the purchaser to have a valid state or city license or permit. Instead, Indie Arms accepted the order and the products were delivered to an address in Manhattan.
Incidents involving ghost guns reflect a dangerously escalating trend. The NYPD recovered 17 ghost guns in 2018, 48 in 2019, 150 in 2020, 263 in 2021, and has already recovered 180 this year as of June 26th — a 181 percent increase over the same time period last year, and on pace to exceed last year’s total.
New York City is also asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction, ordering the defendants to immediately stop selling ghost guns into New York City. It has been illegal to sell ghost guns into New York City since February 2020, and the Sheriff Office’s undercover investigation revealed that these particular defendants have and continue to ignore the city’s restrictions. During the course of the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office found that several out-of-state internet sellers were complying with the city’s restrictions and responsibly declining to sell to those customers in New York City. With respect to the named defendants here, however, the city is seeking the court’s assistance to compel defendants to act responsibly and in compliance with the law by immediately ending sales into New York City. Later in the suit, the city will ask the court to force these sellers to provide information on addressees that have received ghost guns.
This legal action was led by the Affirmative Litigation Division in the New York City Law Department, with the invaluable assistance of the NYPD, the Sheriff’s Office, the Mayor’s Office, New York City’s five district attorneys, and the Office of the New York Attorney General.