New York, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal today announced that the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act, which will ban ghost guns by requiring all guns to be serialized, passed the New York State Assembly, after previously passing the State Senate, and will head to the Governor’s desk. The bill was sponsored by Brad Hoylman in the State Senate.
Ghost guns are do-it-yourself, homemade guns. People can purchase ghost gun kits online or at gun shows and then assemble the guns at home. Ghost guns are unserialized, untraceable and the kits can be purchased without a background check. Ghost guns allow people who want a firearm but may never be able to get one via legal means, to acquire all the parts to make a gun on their own.
“Ghost guns enable people to evade background checks and licensing requirements as they construct totally untraceable firearms in their homes. The do-it-yourself kits undermine New York’s gun laws and make our communities unsafe,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Social Services. “The bill is a vitally needed tool that will help stop the proliferation of dangerous, untraceable guns and help to keep our communities safe.”
The bill was named after Jose Webster who was a 16-year-old living in the Bronx with his mother when he was shot 15 times while he walked his girlfriend home. It was not even 9 pm and the walk was only seven blocks.
“While it would be nice to say that Jose’s death was an anomaly, and that for the most part, our kids – all of us – are safe from gun violence, that would be a lie,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Gun violence is on the rise, right here in New York and across the county.”
Even the COVID-19 global pandemic could not stop gun violence. In 2020, there were 19,379 gun violence deaths in the United States, the highest number recorded in more than two decades, and more than 611 mass shootings. Children are at an ever-increasing risk of gun violence. According to a 2019 study, gun injuries are the second-leading cause of death among US children and teens and the leading cause of death among high school students.
During the pandemic, a time that was marked by unprecedented instability, people rushed to “panic buy” firearms. According to a Harvard Law Review article, more than 80% of all ghost gun kit manufacturers experienced shipping delays because of the extreme demand, and one likened the increase in sales to “the Black Friday shopping frenzy.”
An April 2020 report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government reported that over the three-year period between 2017 and 2020, New York law enforcement saw a 479% increase in recoveries of ghost guns. NYS recovered 220 ghost guns and only 38 in 2018.
This bill amends the Penal Law to prohibit the possession and sale of ghost guns in New York State and require licensed gunsmiths to promptly serialize and register with the Division of State Police any unserialized gun, unfinished frame, or receiver in their possession. Gunsmiths who fail to comply with these requirements would be guilty of a Class E felony, which carries between one and four years of imprisonment and/or up to five years of probation.
The bill also creates penalties for possession and sale of ghost guns for those who are not gunsmiths and creates a penalty for knowing possession or disposition of more than 10 ghost guns.
The bill was supported by a broad array of anti-gun violence groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety, New Yorkers against Gun Violence, Brady United Against Gun Violence, Giffords Law Center, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and United Neighborhood Houses.
“New York’s gun violence crisis is multi-faceted and requires a range of impactful solutions that will keep New Yorkers, their loved ones and their communities safe,” said Nicole Sano, a volunteer with the New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “With the passage of this comprehensive legislation to regulate ghost guns – untraceable, unserialized firearms that pose a rising threat to the safety of New Yorkers – the New York Assembly has reaffirmed their commitment to being a national leader on gun safety and taking action to protect New Yorkers. These bills will help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them and keep dangerous, untraceable firearms off the streets of our cities. We are immensely grateful for the Assembly’s action, especially Speaker Heastie and bill sponsors Assemblymembers Rosenthal and Lavine, and are hopeful that Governor Cuomo will continue to protect public safety by signing them into law.”
"The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a severe uptick in untraceable ghost gun cases and a surge in gun violence in New York and across the nation," said Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence."New York State is once again a model for gun safety by passing ghost gun legislation to stop the flow of unserialized guns. We applaud Assemblymember Rosenthal, Senator Hoylman, and the New York State legislature for passing the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act, which will prohibit the manufacture and sale of untraceable “ghost guns” and make our communities safer. "
“Ghost guns are an existential threat to public safety, and one that New York State and cities across the state have already felt. In the past two years the number of ghost guns recovered in crimes in New York has increased exponentially. These unregulated and untraceable firearms have become a weapon-of-choice for individuals such as domestic abusers who are prohibited from purchasing firearms under federal and state law. This bill will help to prevent the proliferation of these weapons across the state and prevent tragedies such as the murder of six-year-old Miguel Everson, who was shot with a ghost gun in the back by his uncle. Brady thanks Assemblymembers Rosenthal and Lavine, alongside Senators Kaplan and Hoylman for their leadership and dedication to ensuring that these important bills become law,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady United.
“Our deepest thanks to Assemblymember Rosenthal for championing legislation to ban unserialized firearms and assembly parts known as "ghost guns". These weapons are a growing threat to the safety and security of Americans and we applaud Assemblymember Rosenthal and her staff for her dedication and commitment to this issue that will make New York a safer state,” said Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
“Across the country, law enforcement officers are increasingly finding that the crime guns they recover lack serial numbers. These untraceable firearms, which exploit gaps in federal law so that they can be obtained without a background check, pose one of the fastest rising threats to gun safety,” said David Pucino, Senior Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “The Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act and Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act will together fill in the gaps that have allowed for these untraceable firearms to proliferate. It will help stop the flow of these dangerous weapons and make New York safer. We applaud the Assembly for passing this important gun safety legislation.”