Shootings in New York have gone up markedly since the COVID-19 pandemic began, including well-publicized New York City subway shootings and a mass killing at a supermarket in Buffalo.
Some shootings are done with "ghost guns," so-called because they are untraceable as they lack the serial numbers that link guns to the buyer. They are sold online and at gun shows without proper background checks, according to The New York Times.
Ghost guns are sold in parts that can easily be assembled into operable guns using a drill.
New York officials are now suing 10 companies that sell components for ghost guns, under a new state law. Two lawsuits were filed separately by the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the New York City Law Department, The New York Times reported.
The lawsuits accuse the companies of illegally selling tens of thousands of gun frames and receivers over the last five years that were used to assemble assault-style weapons, The Times reported.
The number of ghost guns recovered by New York police rose from 17 in 2018 to 263 in 2021. In 2022, the police have seized 175 ghost guns, 9% of all guns they have recovered, the Times reported.
Some ghost guns have been found at crime scenes, while others were confiscated from children at school.
New York enacted laws last year banning the sale of ghost guns without a license and requiring gunsmiths to register guns or frames they assemble. James' office sent cease-and-desist orders to 28 ghost gun sellers earlier this month.
The attorney general's lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, names 10 companies as defendants: Brownells, Blackhawk Manufacturing Group, Salvo Technologies, G.S. Performance, Indie Guns LLC, Primary Arms, Arm or Ally, Rainier Arms, KM Tactical, and Rock Slide USA.
The New York City Law Department also sued five of those companies in federal court in Manhattan. Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement that the companies had sold and delivered ghost gun components to addresses in the city.
"We will not stand by while illegal operators flout the law, endanger our communities, and kill our young people," he said.
Since 2005, federal law has protected gun manufacturers from most lawsuits seeking to hold them responsible for injuries or deaths. The law contains an exception for cases in which the seller knowingly violates statutes regulating the sale or marketing of firearms.
New York lawmakers took advantage of that exception to create a path for the state, cities and individuals affected by gun violence to sue manufacturers, distributors, and retailers for damages, the Times reported.
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