Ghost gun retailers agree to stop selling kits and parts to New York City residents, as new federal rule takes effect

Rainier Arms and Rock Slide reached settlements with New York City, where officials say incidents involving ghost guns have been dangerously escalating.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams touches a gun during a news conference to announce a lawsuit against ghost gun distributors in New York on June 29.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file
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Two ghost gun retailers have agreed to stop selling kits and parts to residents in New York City, where officials say incidents involving the homemade and untraceable weapons have been dangerously escalating for years.

Rainier Arms, an online retailer that specializes in AR-10 and AR-15 rifles, reached a settlement with the city Wednesday, more than a week after North Carolina-based retailer Rock Slide agreed to settle the same public nuisance lawsuit the city filed against it in June.

So-called ghost guns are increasingly favored among criminals nationwide because the kits and parts used to assemble them are bought without a background check and can be put together in under two hours.

The latest legal victory for gun safety advocates came the same day a new federal rule subjecting ghost guns to the same regulations as traditional firearms took effect.

Beating back at least two court challenges, the federal rule requires those who sell ghost guns to be licensed and manufacturers to ensure the parts have serial numbers. Background checks also have to be conducted before sales.

A judge in North Dakota determined Tuesday that it "was and remains constitutional under the Second Amendment," while a Texas judge declined to block it in a separate case.

Earlier this month, a judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that ghost gun kits and parts are firearms and barred Polymer80, one of the nation’s largest ghost gun manufacturers, from selling its do-it-yourself products to district residents.

In that case, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia also ordered Polymer80 to pay more than $4 million in penalties for making false claims about the legality of its products.

In the settlement filed Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, Rainier Arms agreed to permanently stop selling all unfinished frames or receivers to New York City residents and to purge those products from its website.

It also agreed to give the city any documents regarding New York City sales since February 2020.

Those documents, which include all identifying information about purchasers, will not be publicly disclosed, but the city said it may make such documents available to any city agency, including the New York City Police Department.

The city’s complaint said Rainier Arms shipped at least 846 packages, believed to include packages with ghost gun parts, to people in New York state from Jan. 4, 2021, to April 28, 2022.

Last week, Rock Slide agreed to similar terms. Rock Slide’s owner, Ian Frampton, did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement to NBC News, Christopher Adams, an attorney for Rainier Arms, said the company "is happy that the case is resolved and will continue to follow the change in laws regulating firearms that don’t violate the Constitution.”

Across the country, officials say ghost guns have been increasingly showing up at crime scenes. And when they do, they’re harder to trace to an individual buyer because they’re not currently marked with serial numbers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it received more than 45,000 reports of suspected ghost guns recovered by law enforcement from January 2016 to December 2021. Nearly 700 of them were recovered in homicide or attempted homicide investigations, officials said.

In 2021 alone, the White House said about 20,000 suspected ghost guns were reported to the federal government as having been recovered by law enforcement in criminal investigations. That’s 10 times as many as in 2016, the administration said.

In New York City, police say they have seized 263 of them in connection with arrests in 2021, compared to 150 in 2020 and 48 in 2019.

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference to announce a lawsuit against ghost gun distributors in New York on June 29.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

So far this year, about 9% of all guns recovered by police have been ghost guns, while more are likely flooding the streets, according to the lawsuit the city filed in June against five online retailers of ghost gun parts.

The other three defendants are Arm or Ally, Salvo Technologies, and Indie Guns. Salvo was expected to also finalize a settlement, Courthouse News reported.

The proliferation of ghost guns by those sellers, the city's complaint said, makes New York City "more dangerous for both the public and for law enforcement, causing a quintessential public nuisance."

"We are not going to let gun companies turn New York City into a city of mail-order murder," Mayor Eric Adams said when he announced the suit.

It has been illegal to sell ghost guns into New York City since February 2020. The statewide prohibition on those sales started April 26.

The attorneys general in New York state and California have filed lawsuits against ghost gun sellers, while officials in Baltimore and Los Angeles have specifically targeted Polymer80 in their suits.