NYS senate passes legislation banning sale and possession of ‘ghost guns’

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By Emily Davenport

The New York State Senate has officially passed the Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act.

Named for a 16-year-old from the south Bronx who was shot and killed in 2011, the bill, which was sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, will create the strongest protections against “ghost guns,” dangerous and untraceable weapons with no serial numbers that circumvent New York’s gun safety laws.

“Ghost guns have been a scourge for years, and that is why I first introduced legislation to regulate them back in 2013,” said Assemblymember Rosenthal. “I commend State Senate Brad Hoylman for passing this bill out of the New York State Senate. To get one step closer to a world in which school children do not have to participate in active shooter drills, we must pass this bill in the New York State Assembly as well.”

“I am honored that legislation named after my brother by Senator Hoylman has not only been introduced but passed the Senate today,” said Nathalie Arzu, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network, whose brother, Jose Webster, was shot and killed just blocks from their home in 2011. “I am hopeful this legislation will see the same success in the Assembly this session, so no one will ever have to experience what our family has.”

Under this new bill, sale and possession of ghost guns will be completely prohibited – a licensed gunsmith would only be allowed to possess a firearm without a serial number. All New York gunsmiths will be required to serialize all firearms, rifles, shotguns, or unfinished frames or receivers they manufacture or assemble, and to register any such gun, frame or receiver that isn’t otherwise covered by federal serialization law with the Division of State Police. It also makes manufacturing or assembling firearms, rifles, and shotguns illegal for anyone who isn’t a gunsmith.

The bill also ensures that law enforcement will be able to track the manufacture and sale of all guns in New York, and defines a “ghost gun” as any firearm, rifle, or shotgun that isn’t serialized and registered in accordance with either state or federal law.

Gun violence in New York has spiked among the COVID-19 crisis, as well as sales of firearms and ghost guns. At the beginning of the pandemic, gun manufacturers reported massive sales of ghost gun kits, with at least 16 manufacturers telling customers they were experiencing shipping delays due to a high volume of orders. This month, the FBI reported there were 3.9 million background checks in the month of June, a record high. In June, a 22-year-old man was arrested in Troy after illegally carrying a ghost gun.

“The COVID-19 crisis has made our nation’s epidemic of gun violence even worse. Retailers report sky-high demand for ghost guns, untraceable weapons that can evade even New York’s historically strong gun safety regulations. The Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act, which I’m proud to sponsor with Assembly Member Rosenthal, will ban the sale and possession of ghost guns and ensure law enforcement has the necessary tools to track the manufacture and sale of all guns in New York,” said Senator Hoylman. “Together with the Scott J. Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act sponsored by Senator Kaplan and Assembly Member Lavine, our bills form a comprehensive package of legislation to crack down on ghost guns. I’m honored to pass this bill today in memory of Jose Webster, a teenager from New York City who lost his life due to gun violence, and I’m deeply grateful for the advocacy and support of his sister Nathalie and for the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.”

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