As New York’s premier Second Amendment Lawyers we are monitoring pending legislation to criminalize the possession and sale of 80% (Eighty Percent ) lowers in New York. These unfinished frames have been a recent target of the anti gun crowd who often refer to these unfinished frames or receivers as “Ghost Guns.” Currently there are no laws on the books in New York State that ban the sale or possession of 80% lowers however legislation is currently pending in Albany and a relatively recent and very ambiguous law was recently passed in New York City which makes in a crime to possess or sell an “unfinished frame or receiver.”
WHAT IS AN 80% LOWER
Various parts of a gun can be bought online and in stores. The question became which of the parts is the “firearm”? The part that the government wanted to regulate. Interestingly, the government chose to regulate the frame or lower receiver of the firearm which is just a simple hunk of metal with cutouts for the action, trigger and some pins. According to federal law each lower receiver sold in the US must be serialized ( must have a serial number) and an FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee) must do a background check. However, the question is when does a hunk of
aluminum or plastic become a lower receiver that requires a serial number. The ATF through regulations decided that a piece of metal that was 80% completed into a lower receiver had to have a serial number. So companies started selling lower receivers that were not quite 80% completed along with a kit to help a person to finish them into a completed receiver.
HOW DO YOU REGULATE 80% LOWERS?
The problem remains that it is impossible to define an unfinished frame or receiver. Defining a firearm is relatively easy but how do you define something as a firearm when its not. Is a block of aluminum a firearm that would require a serial number? Is a block of plastic a lower receiver that would require a serial number? Lets say that you bought a piece of aluminum with the
intent to make it a firearm and it had a serial number, how would you finish it without damaging the serial number? The concerns are endless.
The 2019 ATTORNEY GENERAL’s CEASE and DESIST LETTER
In 2019 anti-gun Attorney General Letitia James issued a cease and desist letter to companies that were shipping unfinished lower receivers into New York. It was never clear under what authority the Attorney General issued the Cease and Desist Letter since 80% Lowers were legal in New York and remain so. That is the reason that legislation is currently pending to change that.
ARE UNFINISHED RECEIVERS LEGAL IN NEW YORK
Yes. Unfinished receivers are legal in New York as long as they are not used to make a rifle that violates the New York Safe Act and as long as they are not used to make a pistol for a person that does not hold a pistol license. Possession of an unlicensed pistol in New York is a felony. Assuming the person is making a New York compliant rifle for that person’s own personal use their should be no issues. A pistol license holder should have the firearm added to their license before completing a pistol in New York.
NEW YORK CITY’S LAW
New York City has added a new section to the New York City Administrative Code which makes it a crime to sell or possess an “unfinished frame or receiver.” See 10-314. It is a class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail to violate the section. In sec 1-301 (22) the City has put together a tortuous definition of unfinished frame or receiver which probably criminalizes many objects.
While it is currently, legal outside New York City to buy an 80 percent lower, that may be changing soon. In addition, it is essential that one not turn an 80 percent lower into something that would be illegal for them to possess in New York. For more information please visit our New York Gun Laws website or learn about our pre-paid legal program for gun owners call NY TAC DEFENSE.