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AG seeks to bar gun

May 30, 2023

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ALBANY — Attorney General Letitia James wants to bar a company that sells an accessory for semiautomatic rifles from doing business in New York, arguing its product makes it too easy for someone to turn a firearm into an illegal weapon.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, James cited the gunman who killed 10 people in a Buffalo supermarket a year ago as an example of the need to stop the company, Mean Arms, from selling its product in New York.

"The racist mass shooting ... was one of the darkest days in the history of our state and our nation," James said in a statement. "We lost 10 innocent lives because a hate-fueled individual was able to make an AR-15 even deadlier through a simple change at home."

The lawsuit notes the gunman, Payton Gendron, lawfully purchased an AR-15 rifle in New York that included the "MA Lock" produced by Mean Arms, a Georgia-based company. The rifle was one of the weapons Gendron used to kill 10 Black people in a Tops market a year ago this Sunday. Gendron has since been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

"Using basic tools in his family's home and following easily available instructions, within a matter of minutes, the Buffalo shooter simplyremoved the MA Lock from the rifle," the lawsuit states. The modification enabled Gendron to "keep shooting and preventing the victims from being able to escape or intervene."

The MA Lock accessory, which retails for about $20, allows a person to attach a magazine to a semiautomatic rifle in compliance with the laws of states such as New York that require the magazine be fixed or locked in place. (The company's website calls those laws "intrusive.") It is designed to be screwed into place with a bolt that shears off. But online videos as well as instructions on the product packaging, the attorney general's office notes, show how to remove the lock. Removing the device allows the rifle to hold detachable magazines such as the illegal 30-round magazines used by Gendron.

"The greatest thing about the MA Lock: You get to keep all your favorite tactical accessories without having to register your firearm," according to a Mean Arms instructional video that explains how to install the accessory. (The video does not show how to remove the device.)

James says the company is "deceptively and falsely advertising to purchasers," resulting in Mean Arms allegedly aiding and abetting the illegal possession of assault weapons in New York.

If the litigation is successful, it would block Mean Arms from conducting business in New York and seek damages from the company.

Mean Arms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New York remains under a state of emergency due to gun violence, an executive order signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021 shortly before he resigned from office. Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration has kept the emergency order in place to more easily and swiftly distribute funds to gun-violence prevention groups in communities across the state.