November 12, 2021

Several New York bills were recently signed into law banning “ghost guns,” defining the term “unfinished frame or receiver,” and expanding the definition of “disguised guns.” These new laws are poorly written, conflict with federal law, expand the class of prohibited items, and are likely to result in significant confusion.

S.13A/A.2666A, the Unfinished Receiver Act, effective February 25, 2022, bans the possession or sale of an “unfinished frame or receiver,” which are now defined in New York as “any material that does not constitute the frame or receiver of a [firearm] but that has been shaped or formed in any way for the purpose of becoming the frame or receiver of a [firearm], and which may readily be made into a functional frame or receiver through milling, drilling or other means.”  This law targets “80% receivers” which are not currently classified as firearms by the ATF.  As written, however, it even applies to rough castings for AR-type firearms that have not been machined in any way.  This new law prohibits the possession of an “unfinished frame or receiver” by anyone other than a New York State licensed gunsmith. 

The Unfinished Receiver Act provides a six month grace period for persons who own an “unfinished frame or receiver” from when the new law goes into effect to avoid prosecution for illegal possession or sale by disposing of the “unfinished frame or receiver,” but the required methods to do so vary to avoid charges for possession or sale.

In addition to criminalizing the possession and sale of unfinished frames or receivers, the law also makes it illegal for prohibited persons to possess a “major component” of a firearm.  New York law defines a major component of a firearm as including the barrel, slide, or cylinder, which are not regulated by federal law, in addition to the frame/receiver.

A related bill, S.14A/A.613A, the Untraceable Firearms Act, which goes into effect on April 26, 2022, defines as a “ghost gun” any “unfinished frame or receiver” that is not serialized with a number in accordance with federal law requiring licensed manufacturers and importers to mark firearms.  After S.14A/A.613A goes into effect, possession or sale of a “ghost gun” by anyone other than a New York State licensed gunsmith will be illegal.  It contains the same six month grace period after it goes into effect to avoid prosecution for possession and sale. 

S.14A/A.613A also requires any New York State licensed gunsmiths who possess a “ghost gun” when it goes into effect or thereafter, to mark it with his or her name and a unique serial number in the manner required by federal law for licensed manufacturers and importers.  The gunsmith is then required to register it with the New York State Police.  S.14A/A.613A specifically requires gunsmiths to serialize unfinished frames or receivers that are not yet considered firearms pursuant to federal law.

An unrelated bill, S.7152/A.6522, was signed into law the same day, and went into effect on November 1, 2021.  It completely changed the definition of a “disguised gun” in New York.  The former definition was “any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive and is designed and intended to appear to be something other than a gun.”  That definition applied to items such as pen guns, which were already regulated as any other weapons pursuant to the National Firearms Act.  The new law drastically expands the definition of a “disguised gun” to apply to any firearm “displaying a color finish other than the original manufacture color, a decorative pattern or plastic like surface.”  The only exception is for long-guns “displaying a camouflage color finish or pattern that is intended for hunting.”  Knowing possession of a “disguised gun” is a Class D felony.  In addition, anyone who alters or conceals the “original color or surface of the gun with the purpose of selling such weapon is guilty of a class D felony.”  This law essentially makes possession of a firearm with any finish different than the one that was originally applied by its manufacturer when it was first sold, a felony.

As noted above, these new laws are poorly written and provide substantial criminal penalties for violating them.  If you have any questions concerning what you must do to avoid violating the above laws, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.