Hochul signs 'ghost gun,' 'toy gun' bills to fight gun violence

Originally published in Orlean Times Herald on October 28, 2021.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed three bills addressing gun violence, including one meant to close a loophole in New York’s otherwise stringent gun laws.

Appearing on Long Island, Hochul said she had signed measures that outlaw the sale of so-called “ghost guns” as well as the making or possession of so-called “toy guns” — real weapons crafted to look like a child’s toy — and a bill that criminalizes the possession of unfinished gun frames and receivers by anyone other than a licensed gunsmith.

The signings are Hochul’s latest acts in tackling gun violence, an issue that remains a declared state of emergency in New York. Hochul extended former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state of emergency to Nov. 22 as the state looks to spend another $34 million of its $159 million package to address gun violence through programs and research.

“Gun violence is a public health and public safety crisis that must be dealt with aggressively,” Hochul said in a press statement. “Working with partners at all levels, my administration will continue to crack down on the distribution and possession of dangerous weapons and put an end to the gun violence epidemic.”

Hochul’s announcement came a day after reports of Attorney General Letitia James will announce a run for governor. The Times Union of Albany reported that James made gun violence and ending the trafficking in illegal firearms a key issue of her campaign.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, said in the last three years New York has seen a 479% increase in ghost gun seizures across the state. He said, thanks to his Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act being signed Thursday, “we’re addressing this growing problem by banning the sale and possession of ghost guns, so nobody will be able to purchase these firearms without first passing a background check.”

There are manufacturers that sell and ship components that, when assembled, make up a usable handgun or rifle, such as an AR-15-style firearm. The kits circumvent laws regarding gun sales in that they aren’t technically firearms when shipped and they have no serial numbers.

Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, also a Manhattan Democrat, sponsored the legislation that criminalizes the sale of ghost guns, which do not have serial numbers and are put together in pieces. The law also requires gunsmiths to register and serialize the firearms they assemble.

The toy gun bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Stern, D-Melville, and Sen. John E. Brooks, D-Seaford.

“These weapons put our law enforcement personnel at a dangerous disadvantage in situations when they are facing down the barrel of a gun and have a split second to decide if it is a toy or a real weapon, a split second that could make the difference between life or death,” Stern said.

The other bill signed into law was sponsored by Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine, D-Glen Cove, and Sen. Anna M. Kaplan, D-North Hills. It makes it a crime to sell an unfinished frame or receiver.

“If you can’t pass a background check to get a gun, then you shouldn’t be able to get a gun — period,” Kaplan said. “For too long, the unfinished receiver loophole let anyone get their hands on all the parts needed to build an untraceable, unregistered AR-15 without ever going through a background check.”

Hochul has two more bills, both focused on researching gun violence, on her desk. A spokesperson told the Times Union she was be reviewing these bills in the coming days.