‘Clear and present danger’: New York senators pen legislation to outlaw ‘ghost guns’ and partial receivers

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New York Legislators proposed bills on Feb. 14, the second anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, aimed at banning ‘ghost guns’ – firearms without serial numbers – and partially finished firearm receivers that are sometimes used to create these unmarked firearms.

The Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receivers Act, named after the New-York-born teacher who was killed while trying to protect students during the Parkland shooting, would make it illegal to own or sell an unfinished firearm receiver without a gunsmith license, according to a press release Friday.

The Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act, named after a 16-year-old shot to death in the Bronx in 2011, would prohibit the sale and possession of ‘ghost guns,’ defined by the bill as any firearm without a registered serial number, according to the press release.

Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the Webster Act, thinks that these two bills are vital to keeping New Yorkers safe from gun violence, she said.

“Technology has improved, and it’s easier than ever to produce a virtually undetectable weapon capable of mass destruction with little effort or expertise in the comfort of your own home,” Rosenthal said.

The unfinished receivers, typically called 80% receivers, are not legally firearms under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, but can be finished with simple tools into a working firearm without a serial number for tracking, according to the press release.

These ‘ghost guns’ make it easy for a person to get an untraceable firearm without going through the background checks required by law, said Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the Webster Act.

“Law enforcement officials are speaking out, saying ‘ghost guns’ are a clear and present danger in New York,” Hoylman said. “Yet somehow, a loophole in federal law means this is all completely legal.”

Sen. Anna Kaplan, who sponsored the Beigel Act, thinks partially finished firearm receivers are dangerous because they let people get their hands on unregistered and dangerous firearms, she said.

“This loophole gives people an end-run around our existing gun safety laws, and it’s unfortunately being exploited by people who would otherwise fail a background check,” Kaplan said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed banning the sale of unregistered ‘ghost guns’ by anyone other than licensed firearms dealers in his 2020 State of the State agenda Jan. 2. The proposal would also prevent people forbidden from owning a firearm from owning any major parts of firearms.

“This common sense measure would ban these untraceable guns and require anyone who wants to build their own firearm to come out of the shadows once and for all,” Cuomo said.

Assembly Member Charles Lavine, who sponsored the Biegel Act with Kaplan, thinks these laws would help stem the flow of untraceable guns into New York communities, he said.

“If you want to own a gun in New York, you need to go through a background check, and that gun needs to have a serial number. Period,” Lavine said.

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