Hochul signs gun control package addressing hard-to-trace guns

Originally published in Spectrum News on October 29, 2021.

A package of bills meant to curtail gun violence in New York by banning the sale of so-called "ghost guns" as well as barring the possession of unfinished frames or receivers was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The measures, which also include a new law meant to address guns that can be deisgned to look like toys, comes amid a spike in gun violence in cities across New York and the country.

"Gun violence is a public health and public safety crisis that must be dealt with aggressively," Hochul said. "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."

The bills also come as Hochul this week extended an executive order that deemed gun violence in New York a public emergency.

Selling or possessing unfinished frames or receivers by anyone other than a licensed gunsmith has been outlawed; the materials can be used to form the lower part of a firearm and can be combined with other pieces to form a fully functioning weapon.

"If you can't pass a background check to get a gun, then you shouldn't be able to get a gun--period. 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, but today, we're taking historic action here in New York to close that dangerous loophole for good," said Senator Anna M. Kaplan. "I'm proud to be the sponsor of the Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act because I know it's going to save lives, just like Scott Beigel did when he gave his life to protect his students from gunfire during the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I'm grateful for my partners in this effort, Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Chuck Lavine, and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, each of whom have shown extraordinary leadership to make sure our state is combating the scourge of gun violence. And most importantly, I want to thank Scott Beigel's parents Linda and Michael, for never giving up the fight to ensure that our communities are safe from gun violence." 

A companion measure bars the sale of ghost guns, or firearms that lack a registration and serial numbers, which make it difficult for law enforcement to trace. Gunsmiths and dealers must register and serialize firearms as well as unfinished frames or receivers they possess.

"Ghost guns have exploded in popularity as people have taken to the internet to evade New York's strong laws requiring background checks and licensing, to gain access to deadly weapons they can construct in the comfort and privacy of their own homes," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. "Closing the ghost gun loophole by signing the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act, along with the Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receivers Act, will help to keep our communities safe. Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing these bills into law. I look forward to working with the Executive to passing more legislation to keep New Yorkers safe from gun violence in the future."

And Hochul approved a bill that seeks to crack down on guns that seemingly look like toys, but are firearms by expanding the definition of a disguised gun under the law.

"The gun violence epidemic has stolen the lives of so many in our state and country, and we have only seen the problem grow worse in recent years," said Sen. John Brooks. "Common sense measures like this legislation to crackdown on disguised guns are critical to protecting New Yorkers. No one should live in fear of gun violence, not when walking down the street, serving our communities in law enforcement, while learning at schools, spending time at home, or anywhere else."