As New York firearms attorneys we reported in our December 28, 2021 blog about the new law regulating 80 percent lower receivers in New York, the law allows for a six month grace period. However as has been reported in the news lately, the term “Ghost Gun” is the new boogie man for gun control supporting politicians and raids have been taking place before the new law even takes effect. Please read this article and this one.
The problem for many gun owners begins when they unlawfully finish what started out as an 80 percent lower in one of two ways. First, it is a serious felony under New York law to possess any handgun, even in one’s own home without a handgun license. Once you complete the 80 percent lower into a handgun a person who doesn’t have a pistol license possesses an unregistered and unlicensed firearm, referred to by many politicians as a “ghost gun”. The fact is that getting a handgun license in many New York counties, especially during the pandemic could take a year or more. In addition, fully manufactured guns were hard to come by. Some people took matters into their own hands and completed 80% lowers into functioning handguns.
Possession of a handgun without a license in your home or place of business is a class “E” felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Possession of a loaded unlicensed and unregistered handgun outside your home or place of business is a class “C: violent felony and carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 3.5 years in State prison with a maximum sentence of 15 years. Possession of 3 or more firearms makes it a “D” felony and possession of 5 or more firearms makes it a “C” felony.
Secondly, if a person starts off with an 80% lower receiver and completes it into an AR-15 style rifle the person building it must be particularly careful to build a SAFE Act compliant rifle. That means that any barrel would need to be free of a muzzle brake, flash suppressor or threads on the muzzle. In addition, the rifle would need a fixed stock, no bayonet lug and no muzzle device. The barrel would have to be at least 16 inches.
In either case whether a person builds a pistol or rifle any magazine would have to be New York legal. This means a magazine capacity no greater than 10 rounds. That means no standard capacity magazines. Possession of high capacity magazines are themselves a class “D” felony.
In addition, “Assault Weapons” as they are called under New York law may in some cases fit under the definition of firearms so that they may counted to elevate the level of felony if one possessed three or more or five or more firearms.
We have seen scattered reports in the news and on social media of police showing up with search warrants at people’s homes. Recently, search warrants were executed in 8 locations throughout Westchester and Putnam Counties and the press is reporting that more than 100 firearms including ghost guns were seized.
Firearms possession charges are very serious in New York. It is never a good idea to possess illegal weapons or commit crimes in general. As a result if you own any illegal “ghost guns”, “high capacity” magazines, unlicensed firearms or “assault weapons”, now is the right time to get rid of them. The political climate in New York is certainly hostile to lawful gun owners and we are expecting increased enforcement given the public statements of politicians.