Senate passes legislation to criminalize untraceable gun parts in New York

Sen. Anna Kaplan, photo courtesy of Senate Media Services.

To mark the three-year anniversary of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Fla., the state Senate has passed two bills that would make it harder to build or modify AR-15 style assault rifles using untraceable parts.

The legislation targets so-called “ghost guns,” a term used by gun control advocates to describe firearms built with aftermarket parts. Because these weapons are made with receivers and parts without serial numbers, they are untraceable and can be built without the normal background checks required for purchasing firearms from a store or licensed dealer.

The Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act (S.13) passed the Senate on Feb. 10, 2021. It would prohibit the “possession of unfinished receivers” by anyone other than a gunsmith and create the crimes of criminal sale of an unfinished frame or receiver in the first, second, and third degree.

Beigel, a Long Island native, was working as a geography teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when former student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 17 others during a shooting at the school on Feb. 14, 2018. Beigel died while shielding students from the gunfire.

Cruz purchased the rifle used in the shooting at a Florida gun store. It was not a “ghost gun” built from aftermarket parts. But the bill sponsor, Sen. Anna Kaplan, D-Great Neck, says the law will save lives, just like Beigel did.

“If you can’t pass a background check to obtain a firearm legally, then you shouldn’t be able to circumvent the process by making your own out of parts you bought online either,” Kaplan said. “The ‘unfinished receiver loophole’ in our gun laws allows too many dangerous ghost guns into our community every year, and with the rise of extremism across the country driving huge demand for these untraceable weapons, we must take action to close it right away.

“As we mark three years since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, I couldn’t be more proud to sponsor ‘The Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act,’ which will close the dangerous unfinished receiver loophole, because I know that it will 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.”

The Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act is sponsored in the Assembly (A.2666) by Charles Lavine, D-Glen Cove.


Illustration provided by Sen. Kaplan’s office


Another bill passed on Feb. 10, the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act (S.14) sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman, criminalizes the sale of “ghost guns.”

That bill requires gunsmiths to serialize and register shotguns, rifles, firearms and unfinished frames or receivers that aren’t otherwise covered by federal serialization law with the State Police.

According to the bill memo, police in Rochester, Albany, Syracuse, New York City, and other jurisdictions have confirmed that they have either seized “ghost guns” or have criminal cases pending involving unregistered weapons.

The bill further states that some of these guns are made using 3D printers; others are advertised for sale as “80% finished” and come with kits and instructions allowing purchasers to make simple alterations to the firearm’s frame or receiver to complete the assembly of these weapons.

This allows purchasers who have criminal records or others who would not pass a required federal background check to evade those requirements and other laws requiring frames and receivers to carry serial numbers.

The New York State Attorney General’s Office recently issued cease and desist orders to the operators of sixteen websites advertising unfinished kits containing “nearly complete” assault weapons. “Though the Attorney General’s commendable action is made possible because New York State law prohibits the possession, sale, or manufacture of assault rifles and certain other dangerous weapons,” the bill states, “gaps in our law still exist for firearms, rifles, and shotguns that do not fall under the definition of an ‘assault weapon.'”

The bill notes that New Jersey passed a similar law in 2018, and their law enforcement officials have already made use of it, charging four defendants in March 2019 for smuggling parts from Pennsylvania into New Jersey to be used to manufacture AR-15 style rifles.

“New York must take aggressive action against the growing threat that ghost guns pose to the safety and well-being of its residents,” the bill states.

Specifically, the legislation would prohibit the possession of ghost guns by anyone other than a licensed gunsmith, prohibit the sale of ghost guns entirely, and require anyone manufacturing or assembling a firearm in New York to be a licensed gunsmith. It would also require New York gunsmiths to serialize any firearms, rifles, shotguns, and unfinished firearm frames or receivers they manufacture or assemble, and register those not otherwise
covered under federal law with the Division of State Police.


“If you can’t pass a background check to obtain a firearm legally, then you shouldn’t be able to circumvent the process by making your own out of parts you bought online either,” Sen. Anna Kaplan


The Assembly version of the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act (A.613) is sponsored by Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan.

The bill is named after a 16-year-old Bronx boy who was shot and killed just blocks from his home in September, 2011.

“New York enacted historic gun safety legislation in 2013, but these untraceable weapons can evade the strong protections we fought so hard to pass. In the midst of a global pandemic, traditional gun sales hit record highs and ghost gun retailers reported sky-high demand. New Yorkers need to be protected from these dangerous weapons,” said sponsor Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan.

Gun manufacturers reported massive sales of ghost gun kits,  and several manufacturers have experienced shipping delays. 

“The number of untraceable ghost-gun cases in New York and across the country has continued to grow, and together, the Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act and the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act would help stop the flow of unserialized ghost guns and prevent gun violence within our communities” said Rebecca Fischer, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

Illustration provided by Sen. Anna Kaplan’s office.