Distributor Agrees to Pay $70,000 & Stop Shipping Untraceable Weapons into NJ
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Gema de las Heras
NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced a first-of-its-kind settlement with a ghost gun company that the Attorney General and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs sued over the company’s advertising and marketing of ghost guns to New Jersey residents and delivery of an assault firearms kit to a New Jersey buyer.
The March 2019 lawsuit against James Tromblee, Jr. d/b/a U.S. Patriot Armory (U.S. Patriot Armory) also was the country’s first such lawsuit against a ghost gun distributor.
“Ghost guns” are partially assembled firearms sold with the parts needed to create a fully-operational gun, often with the instructions on how to do so. Because “ghost guns” are incomplete when sold, companies do not require purchasers to go through background checks, allowing prohibited persons—including terrorists, fugitives, and felons—to obtain firearms that they otherwise would not be able to purchase. Completed “ghost guns” lack traceable serial numbers, making it harder for law enforcement to trace them to their owners and solve gun-related crimes.
In a final consent judgment approved by the court today, U.S. Patriot Armory has agreed to stop advertising and shipping ghost guns and untraceable parts to New Jersey consumers, and to pay $70,000 to resolve the State’s lawsuit, among other relief.
“Protecting New Jerseyans is one of my primary responsibilities as chief law enforcement officer, and to do that, we must keep untraceable firearms off our streets,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We put ghost gun vendors on notice about the consequences of violating our State’s laws over a year ago. Many responded by blocking ghost gun sales to New Jersey residents. Companies that refuse to comply with our laws voluntarily will be held accountable in court.”
Today’s settlement is the latest development in the State’s ongoing efforts to keep ghost guns out of New Jersey.
In November 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation making it illegal in New Jersey to purchase parts to manufacture or distribute information to print “ghost guns,” homemade or 3D printed firearms that are untraceable by law enforcement.
In December 2018, Attorney General Grewal sent cease-and-desist letters to ghost gun companies across the country, ordering them to stop advertising and selling their products to New Jersey buyers and promising to sue any that failed to comply. In response to the cease-and-desist letters, fifteen ghost gun companies agreed to block all New Jersey sales.
The State’s complaint against U.S. Patriot Armory alleged that the California-based distributor continued to deceptively and unconscionably advertise, offer and sell ghost gun kits to New Jersey residents without warning them that untraceable firearms are illegal in New Jersey, exposing buyers to criminal prosecution. To the contrary, U.S. Patriot Armory represented on its website, “Is it legal?: YES!”
The lawsuit also alleged that on February 14, 2019, an undercover investigator for the Division of Consumer Affairs accessed the U.S. Patriot Armory website and purchased a ghost gun kit for the creation of an AR-15 assault rifle, which was delivered to an undercover New Jersey address the following month.
In addition to making a monetary payment and agreeing to stop advertising and shipping ghost guns to New Jersey buyers, U.S. Patriot Armory has agreed to include on its website’s home page and checkout page a conspicuous disclaimer making clear that it does not ship ghost guns or parts to New Jersey.
In addition to today’s ghost gun settlement, Attorney General Grewal recently resolved two lawsuits against firearms dealers over their advertisement and sale of large capacity magazines (LCMs). In September 2020, a Nevada-based firearms dealer agreed to stop advertising, offering for sale, and selling LCMs to New Jersey residents, and to pay the State $50,000, to settle the State’s civil lawsuit against the company. And in January 2021, a Florida company agreed to stop advertising, offering for sale, and selling LCMs anywhere in the United States, and to pay $135,000 in civil penalties after the company sold LCMs to an undercover investigator and delivered the prohibited ammunition to a New Jersey address.
Deputy Attorney General Jesse J. Sierant, Assistant Section Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group represented the State in the matter. Investigator Aziza Salikhova of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
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The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.