Gov. Hochul signs bills targeting 'ghost guns,' other illegal firearms

Originally published in Newsday on October 28, 2021.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of bills Thursday in Westbury to address the dangers of "ghost guns" and other illegal firearms designed to elude detection by law enforcement.

Two of the bills zero in on preventing the possession and sale of unfinished gun frames and receivers — so-called ghost guns. One, named after a former Dix Hills resident and teacher who saved dozens of lives, but lost his own, in a 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., prohibits the possession and sale of the frames or receivers by anyone other than a licensed gunsmith or firearms dealer. The other criminalizes the sale of ghost guns and requires New York gunsmiths to serialize and register any firearms they manufacture or assemble.

"We are doing this to put an end to their ways to evade the law by having component parts broken down and be able to use these guns in an illegal way," Hochul said, surrounded by Democratic elected officials and gun control advocates.

"It will help us stop people from building untraceable guns," the governor said.

The mother of the teacher killed in the Florida mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said the bill named after her son — the Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act — will save the lives of New Yorkers.

"If it prevents one parent, one grandparent, one brother or one sister from feeling the loss I feel every single day," said Linda Beigel Schulman, now a gun safety advocate, "I know Scott would be proud to know that his death was not in vain and that something important and positive came from his murder."

Hochul said so-called "ghost guns" are used by criminals to avoid background checks.

Unfinished receivers form the lower part of a firearm that can be combined with other pieces to make a fully functioning firearm.

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills), the bill's lead sponsor, said the unfinished receiver "loophole" let criminals acquire all the parts they needed to build "an untraceable, unregistered AR-15 without ever going through a background check or serializing their weapon. But today we finally closed this loophole."

The bill was sponsored in the state Assembly by Charles Lavine, a Glen Cove Democrat.

A third bill, sponsored by Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), adds firearms designed to look like toys to the definition of "disguised guns" and prohibits sale, design or manufacturing of the weapons.