Tong: Manufacturers shipped illegal weapons into state
HARTFORD — Attorney General William Tong on Tuesday filed suit against four gun manufacturers who he alleged shipped illegal, unserialized gun parts into Connecticut in violation of a 2019 law that was intended to stem the proliferation of “ghost guns.”
The lawsuit focuses on the distribution of incomplete, lower receivers and firearm frames that Tong’s office said are advertised for sale online and then shipped to customers within Connecticut, where they can be fashioned into fully-functional firearms using additional parts and commonly-available tools.
Because the parts lack serial numbers, they are nearly impossible for police to trace, leading to them being dubbed “ghost” guns.
During a press conference Tuesday at his Hartford office, Tong displayed four lower receivers that he said had been purchased from the companies
named in the lawsuit and shipped to a Post Office box in Connecticut, as part of a joint-investigation with State Police.
Each of the receivers were advertised as 80 percent complete, Tong said, and form the basis for semi-automatic AR-15s, a
popular style of weapon that are banned under Connecticut law.
The four companies named in the lawsuit are Indie Guns LLC and Steel Fox Firearms Inc., both of Florida, as well as Hell Fire Armory of North Carolina and AR Industries
LLC of Utah.
Referring to the longrunning “Iron Pipeline” of illegal weapons that flow into the Northeast from Southern states with looser gun laws, Tong said that ready availability of weapons and parts from online retailers has spread into a national phenomenon.
“This pipeline now goes through UPS, or FedEx or the United States Postal Service,” Tong said.
Reached by phone on Tuesday afternoon, Steel Fox Firearms owner Pete Ferrentino told CT Insider that he was notified of Tong’s lawsuit on Tuesday and was investigating whether employees had violated the company’s policies prohibiting the shipment of unserialized parts to states that have banned ghost guns.
“At no point should anything have been sent out,” Ferrentino said, adding that his company has declined to ship at least 20 other orders to Connecticut. “I’m checking to find out why it was.”
Representatives of the three other companies named in the lawsuit did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Websites for all four companies continued to advertise the sale of unserialized firearms or frames on Tuesday afternoon, though one of the companies, Indie Guns, no longer appeared to offer parts of AR-style rifles. For other parts, including pistol frames, the company’s website advised customers to call for pricing and payment information as part of “OPSEC,” or operational security measures.
Tong’s lawsuit alleges that the sale of illegal weapons and parts in Connecticut is a violation of the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, with each “willful” violation subject to a potential fine of up to $5,000. A spokeswoman for Tong’s office said the attorney general may also seek an injunction to stop the companies from making future sales in Connecticut.
The lawsuit was filed in the Hartford District of the Connecticut Superior Court. No attorneys were listed for any of the defendants as of Tuesday afternoon.
The lawsuit was announced one day after state lawmakers heard several hours of testimony on Gov. Ned Lamont’s bill to bolster the state’s gun laws by raising the buying age to 21, restricting bulk purchases and closing a loophole in the state’s ghost gun ban.
Unregistered, unserialized guns that were owned by Connecticut residents at the time the ban went into place were originally exempted from the law, frustrating law enforcement officers who say that many suspected cases are not being prosecuted because of the difficulty of proving when the weapons were manufactured.
Lamont’s bill would eliminate the grandfather clause, requiring anyone who owns an unserialized “ghost” gun to register their weapons.