Connecticut sues 4 out-of-state retailers for selling illegal ‘ghost guns’

Police call them “ghost guns” because they’re untraceable, with no serial numbers, and they’re showing up at more crime scenes than ever before. Stamford police seized a kit-assembled handgun just last week.

John Craven

Mar 7, 2023, 5:17 PM

Updated 443 days ago

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Connecticut is suing four online retailers for allegedly selling kits to assemble illegal guns, including AR-15 assault-style rifles.
“It is highly illegal to sell these parts here in Connecticut, and if you do that, we are going to come after you,” state Attorney General William Tong said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
Police call them “ghost guns” because they’re untraceable, with no serial numbers, and they’re showing up at more crime scenes than ever before. Stamford police seized a kit-assembled handgun just last week.
“Even though it was not manufactured traditionally, it's still very capable and very deadly,” said Stamford police Sgt. Sean Scanlan.
Tong’s lawsuit targets Indie Guns and Steel Fox Firearms, both based in Florida, as well as North Carolina-based Hell Fire Armory and AR Industries of Utah. Tong said Connecticut State Police were able to purchase gun kits from each retailer, despite a 2019 law banning ghost gun sales and Connecticut’s assault weapons ban.
“This is an 80% lower receiver for an AR-15 – the same weapon that killed 26 people in Newtown.” Tong said. “With a YouTube video, you can turn this into a fully auto AR-15 assault rifle.”
Tong's lawsuit claims the online retailers “mailed illegal ghost gun parts directly to consumers without confirming whether they're licensed to possess a firearm.” According to the suit, two of the retailers shipped firearms to Connecticut even though their websites claimed not to sell here.
Indie Guns’ site refers to home-assembled kits as “craft guns,” adding, “We build them to put personal firearms beyond the reach of government.”
In an interview, owner Lawrence DeStefano called Tong’s lawsuit a politically-motivated attempt to obtain his customers’ records. He said police should target criminals, not gun hobbyists.
“They’re illegal, we understand that,” DeStefano said.
But later, DeStefano said he didn’t know Connecticut banned ghost gun sales four years ago.
“The laws are changing. There's so many laws, they change by the week, alright? I don't have time to keep up with these laws,” he said. “We don't keep records of the recipients or where we ship to. Once we get the order, we ship it out, and then the records are gone.”
DeStefano pledged to stop selling gun parts in Connecticut, but also insisted he has no way to filter out customers from this state. New York State and New York City filed similar lawsuits against Indie Guns.
News 12 Connecticut also reached out to the other three stores. They did not respond.
Illegal guns are such a big problem in Stamford that police are offering $1,000 rewards to get them off the streets.
“This resource is tremendous for us,” said Scanlan. “We're able to pay out for information to get illegal guns off the street. I don't think we would get as many without having this outlet to pay these informants.”
Tong’s lawsuit comes one day after a marathon public hearing on Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to close a “loophole” in Connecticut’s law. Right now, only ghost guns made after 2019 must be registered, making it nearly impossible to prosecute suspects caught with one.


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