New Jersey AG Sues US Patriot Armory for Selling ‘Ghost Gun’ Parts in New Jersey

This undated photo provided by the Office of Attorney General of New Jersey shows parts of guns confiscated after being sold by mail order from a California company.  (Office of Attorney General of New Jersey via AP)

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s attorney general announced a lawsuit Friday against a California company that sells mail-order firearms parts that can be turned into working weapons, the first such action the state has taken since it banned so-called ghost guns last year.

The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that Apple Valley-based U.S. Patriot Armory and owner-founder James Tromblee Jr. violated New Jersey’s consumer fraud laws when it advertised and sold gun parts to an undercover investigator last month.

The company was sent a letter in December asking it to “stop advertising, offering for sale, and/or selling ‘ghost guns’ and ‘ghost gun’ parts to New Jersey residents,” according to the suit. But in February, an investigator for the attorney general’s office ordered parts for an AR-15 assault rifle. The shipment was received this month, according to the suit.

According to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, 15 other companies that received similar letters have either posted warnings to potential New Jersey buyers on their websites or removed the state from lists of available shipping addresses.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and to stop the company from shipping parts to New Jersey.

A phone message seeking comment was left Friday with the company.

“Ghost guns” are unregistered weapons that don’t have serial numbers. Companies sell the nearly complete weapons, often along with the parts needed to finish them, as well as training so the firearms can be completed.

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law last fall that made it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to buy gun parts for use in making firearms with no serial numbers. It’s also a crime to possess an unregistered assault firearm in New Jersey, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“By advertising and selling dangerous and illegal ghost guns to New Jersey residents, failing to disclose the criminal liability buyers are exposing themselves to, and affirmatively misrepresenting that these guns are legal to purchase, this company has shown blatant disregard for New Jersey’s consumer protection laws,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Paul R. Rodríguez said in a statement.

The company is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles.

comments

  1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    If I lived in New Jersey I’d swimming the Yalu River at the first possible opportunity.

    1. avatar Kenneth says:

      Unfortunately, that would only put you in New York. Not much of an improvement.

      1. avatar Mad Max says:

        The Delaware River would work better.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          From what I’ve heard, the Delaware River’s bank (NJ side) is thick with land mines. The safe play is to swim the Yalu River to NY and hope to make it through to VT, then on to NH and eventually freedom.

        2. avatar bontai Joe says:

          I crossed the Delaware on a moonless night with a knife in my teeth, avoiding the hoards of bridge trolls and escaped from The Peoples’ Demokratik Republik of New Jersey to the freedom of Pennsylvania. It can be done. NJ is the only state I know of that lets you in for free, but charges a toll to leave.

    2. avatar Anonymous says:

      The company was sent a letter in December asking it to “stop advertising, offering for sale, and/or selling ‘ghost guns’ and ‘ghost gun’ parts to New Jersey residents…

      The AG tards of the highest taxed state, slave Jersey, aren’t getting it. They aren’t “ghost gun parts.” They are paperweights – okay????

  2. avatar The Dude Abides says:

    Suing someone for selling a legal paperweight. Tax dollars hard at work.

  3. avatar Sam I Am says:

    This is how the anti-gun mafia wins….standard parts for serialized firearms are illegal because those same parts can be used in “ghost guns”.

    I know bureaucrats and governments. The only difference between kitted parts for “ghost guns”, and individual parts and accessories for legal firearms is the container the parts come in. That differential is so frivolous as to be nonexistent. There is nothing to prevent individual parts from being ordered individually, received individually, and assembled individually to create a “ghost gun”. Ergo, all gun parts and accessories not ordered with the original firearm are illegal.

    Since online distributors/manufacturers are required to withhold state sales taxes, it is only a five minute drill to require all firearm parts distributors/re-sellers to report the sale of any such parts to New Jerky (and the other 56 states).

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      Yup. One of thing things to always be on guard against is “ignorance”.

      True ignorance is obnoxious and can be dangerous. Feigned ignorance is almost always dangerous because it usually conceals a purpose which, in politics, is almost always malevolent.

    2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “Since online distributors/manufacturers are required to withhold state sales taxes,…”

      You raise an interesting point –

      Since New Jersey collected sales tax on that sale, can we safely assume NJ will be refunding the business the amount of the tax?

      Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? 😉

  4. avatar GS650G says:

    Poor new jersey. Other places don’t care about their laws.

  5. avatar Marty says:

    Yea well, New Jersey also just passed a tax on Rain Water. They apparently want to use the proceeds to fight global warming. Any one still living in this hell hole within a year, deserves what they get.

  6. avatar FB says:

    Counter sue for breaking the the oath to the office / constitution.

  7. avatar Rad Man says:

    So any online retailer is charged with knowing the laws of all 50 states? This company failed to warn the purchaser of potential liability. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Unless it’s a government sting, of course.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “So any online retailer is charged with knowing the laws of all 50 states?”

      That’s just it.

      Would the company be off the hook if the web page clearly states the purchaser assumes all liability to buy and use the products in accordance with local laws?

      Otherwise, the company should simply not ship to ‘New Joisey’…

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        “Otherwise, the company should simply not ship to ‘New Joisey’…”

        The company is probably fucked on this one. They can be argued to have facilitated breaking the law which probably falls under conspiracy laws. So yes, the company should simply not ship to NJ.

        This is exactly why, initially, the laws here in Colorado about mags were such a PITA. Companies were SO worried about this kind of thing that you had to have a shipping AND a billing address outside of Colorado or they wouldn’t do business with you.

        I tried to buy my dad some mags for his AK and have them shipped to my dad in New Mexico but I couldn’t buy them from any online retailer that I could find because my billing address was in Colorado. I finally had my mom order them and I sent her a check for the total cost.

        These days I could just buy them at a bunch of the local stores and ship them from Colorado because the laws have created an Irish Democracy within Colorado.

        Of course there was always the option to just get a new credit card with a billing address at someone else’s house in a “legal state”…

    2. avatar RCC says:

      Rad Man
      Under Supreme Court decision last year on line retailers have to know tax law for every county and city area.

      1. avatar Reason says:

        That was a terrible decision. If they thought they had to do something it would of made more sense to require the mail order business to charge whatever sales tax is applicable to where the BUSINESS is located. After all that is where the order is received, item located, invoiced from etc. And the business would only need to know the applicable laws for their own location.

    3. avatar iceman says:

      us patriot armory does not ship to jersey or ny.the corrupted governor of nj must haved bought it in a different state

  8. avatar Forrest Adcock says:

    They didn’t sell a ghost gun part in NJ though.

    They sold a ghost gun part in California. The customer being in NJ doesn’t change where the company, product, or bank account that accepted the money are located.

    If NJ doesn’t want Ghost Gun parts in their state, they should go after the people who brought it into the state, not the people who were never in the state to begin with.

    If I were this company, I’d tell NJ to go pound sand. They have literally zero authority in the state where the firearm parts were sold.

    1. avatar edward kenway's ghost says:

      The “customer” in possession of the parts happened to be running a drug ring being investigated in South Jersey. The opportunist NJ AG took the initiative to prosecute the firearms parts sales across state lines.

    2. avatar Mad Max says:

      Unless the case was filed in Federal Court, I was thinking the same thing, unless California would cooperate with New Jersey…

      Soviet Jersey also has an “exit tax”. If you move out of the state and sell your house at a price higher than what you pay for your new home in the other state, you have to pay a capital gains tax to Soviet Jersey. I always tell Soviet Jersey residents to move to Texas and lie about what they paid for their new house. Screw Jersey.

    3. avatar strych9 says:

      On the one hand yes, on the other no.

      I suspect the company is in trouble here because they facilitated breaking the law in another state and can be charged, likely, under conspiracy laws. Gangsters in NY or NJ were regularly charged with such crimes by the other state.

      Sure, I can’t prove you were in NJ. Ever. But I can prove you were colluding with people inside NJ to break NJ law and that’s called a “criminal conspiracy”. All I have to do now is request that NY pick you up and send you to my jurisdiction for prosecution and if NY complies, you’re fucked. Or, I can toss my evidence to a federal prosecutor with a note that you colluded to break laws across state lines and now it’s a federal beef.

    4. avatar Mark N. says:

      My first year law school civil procedure professor says, under well established US Supreme Court case law, that there may be jurisdiction based upn 1) advertising products in NJ, and shipping product into NJ. A state may exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, so long as that defendant has “sufficient minimum contacts” with the forum state, from which the complaint arises, such that the exercise of jurisdiction “will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice . . .” The principle counterargument is that the shipment of a single set of gun parts is not sufficient “minimum contacts.”

      1. avatar Baldwin says:

        Not to mention “…traditional notions of fair play…”.

  9. avatar JP says:

    there is a disclaimer in all of 80lower vendors that the customer is sole responsible of the legality of the firearm they will manufacture. the criminal liability is hereby on the NJ state attorney since he is the one who ordered a kit in a place where it is illegal to assemble. The dealer cannot have mailed a “ghost gun” because it is not a gun. the attorney will be in violation of the law if he machines the lower and manufactures an unserialized firearm.

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      Disclaimers have the legal weight of cat poop. People who signed “I assume all risk” waivers and get hurt sue and win all the time. Unless you have statute behind you, it’s just a bunch of words.

      1. avatar Anonymous says:

        Yeah, but it’s a paperweight. Literally a paperweight. Literally.

    2. avatar strych9 says:

      If this were true it would be really handy for gangbangers and drug dealers.

  10. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    He has no criminally legal way to force them to stop selling. All they need to do is stop advertising and not change their web site. Word of mouth will get buyers to them but Jersey generally sucks a logical place to live. I think it has had more mayors and governors in prison than any other state except maybe Illinois on the governors level.

  11. avatar Brad says:

    The safest thing for the people of NJ would be for the state to restrict access to any internet sites originating from outside NJ.

    1. avatar Sir Tri says:

      So r estricting the 2nd Amendment was not enough. They now should violate your 1st Amendment too so that they can take away the 2nd? I am seeing a trend….

  12. avatar D Y says:

    I assume NJ has at least one smelter/refiner of aluminum?

    How about someone within NJ, with the right tools to make it not such a real chore, orders a block of aluminum from said smelter/refiner, and turn it into a lower receiver? Then take it to the authorities and tell them the aluminum producer is selling ghost gun parts. What then NJ?

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      They’ll ignore it because that argument is an open admission of fraud on the part of the person who made the item in question unless they flat out told the aluminum provider what they intended to do.

      Aluminum has a lot of uses. The provider can’t be held liable for all of them unless they have good reason to suspect that you’re going to use the item for an illicit purpose. A gas can manufacturer can’t be held responsible for an arsonist using their product to carry gas to a crime scene unless the manufacturer sells the item to them directly and is told, or has good reason to suspect, that the reason for the purchase is to facilitate a crime.

      This whole “it’s a paperweight” argument is too cute by half and everyone knows it. It’s like telling the judge “But I didn’t know that ‘nose candy’ was illegal!” of course you fucking did. It’s cocaine, you knew it was cocaine, you knew it was illegal and everyone knows you knew it was cocaine and that cocaine is illegal.

      If you’re going to weasel word shit you need to be smarter about this. Selling something everyone knows has a singular realistic use, which is illegal in a certain jurisdiction, but calling it something else is just plain stupid.

      1. avatar OBOB says:

        you are a bit off –heck WAY off with the ‘paperweight’ VS ‘cocaine’ bit, because till you mill that paperweight…that’s all it is good for
        but mislabeling cocaine= “sugar’ its still 100% COKE!

        nice try

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Perhaps I phrased this inarticulately. I’m not making an argument that I agree with. I’m telling you the way they’re likely to come after this company and to a lot of people it’s going to look like exactly what I said. The point here is that the government always tries to expand existing laws and rules to cover a new thing they don’t like but don’t have a specific law/rule against.

          To wit:

          You can use a brick of coke as a paperweight. It’s still coke and it’s illegal because it’s main usage, outside some forms of surgery, is to get high. You didn’t intend to get high or sell it to someone who would use it to get high but would a reasonable person, based on the average knowledge of cocaine, believe that? Probably not.

          The same thing is true here. You can use an 80% lower as a paperweight but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s primary usage is to create a complete lower. A “reasonable person” with the average level of knowledge the public has of firearms will probably believe that the only realistic reason you have this thing is to finish it off. As such, the argument will likely be that you bought it knowing you were going to make it into a gun and the person who sold it to you knew, or should have known, that was why you were buying it too. That’s going to be what they say about the case and it’s going to be the Devil’s own chore to convince otherwise. You might even be telling the truth but the odds are, based on blind statistics, that you’re not telling the truth and that’s not a hill you do not want to have to climb in court.

          Arguing “It’s not a lower because I didn’t mill it!” is effectively like arguing “This coke isn’t a drug because I don’t have a straw to snort it with!”.

          The obvious retort to both, from the prosecution’s point of view, is “Yet. You don’t have it YET but clearly since the commonly accepted use for an 80% lower is to make a functional lower and that the commonly accepted use for cocaine is to snort it, in both cases at absolute best you intended to commit a crime and we just caught you before you had the chance. These cases are identical and therefore you should be found guilty”. That’s an appeal to ignorance but that particular logical fallacy works more often than we’d like to admit.

          That’s going to be a pretty powerful argument that you do not want leveled against you in court because malum prohibitum laws don’t require that the state prove intent. They’re saying “possession is the crime”. In that case you don’t want to argue what constitutes possession because a lot of people have tried that and gotten locked up for it.

          Perhaps the better analogy is LSD. Possession of lysergic acid is controlled. Why? Because the primary known reason to have lysergic acid is to make lysergic acid diethylamide-25, aka LSD or whatever slang term you prefer. Are there other uses for lysergic acid? Yup. Are they known? Yup. If you catch a completely random person with lysergic acid what are the chances they have a use for it other than LSD? Unless they’re a research chemist or a biochemist, virtually none. So, it’s illegal and just having it is considered prima facie evidence that you have the intent to make LSD even if that’s not your intention.

          Lock picks work the same way. Half a dozen or so states consider them proof that you intend to commit burglary unless you possess a locksmith license. You pick locks as a hobby? Too fucking bad.

          Going back to drugs, heck, you don’t even have to KNOW you have something for it to be a crime and for you to get convicted. Someone drops a bag of drugs in your car during a traffic stop and the cops find it and you’ve got a problem. Unless the actual owner/user mans up and admits that the drugs are theirs guess who’s in possession and going to jail? You because those drugs are in your car and “we can reasonably assume” that they’re yours. I mean, you don’t know what’s in your car? Bullshit.

          Do you really think you’re going to argue that you had it, knew you had it, but had no intention of using it for it’s common purpose so the law shouldn’t apply? Good luck with that. Have a bag of drugs get found in your car and tell the cop “I was on my way to properly dispose of that!”. See how far you get.

          As I said below, I’m not a proponent of this line of reasoning. I think the whole idea is bullshit, the logic unsound and the line of reasoning is faulty. The comparison however, on it’s surface, appears valid to those who don’t understand what an 80% lower truly is. In some ways it is valid. If you can be convicted for possession of one thing because of it’s primary use, whether that’s your intended use or not, why can’t that same logic apply to another object? Is that not the ATF’s base logic behind “constructive intent”?

          I’m not saying I like it. I’m saying that this is what NJ is going to throw and see if it sticks. Unfortunately I think they have a good chance of getting it to stick because the technical knowledge necessary to truly understand the difference isn’t something a jury or even a judge would be likely to possess.

        2. avatar OBOB says:

          good try at trying to convince me or yourself that you are right

          a 80% lower on a desk is a 100% paperweight and at that INSTANT second (not 20 milling steps later with tools) can not make a gun…

          BUT

          that brick of coke certainly that ‘instant second’…is a drug always

          …good try there again

      2. avatar D Y says:

        The Fed’s have determined that a hunk of aluminum that looks like an AR receiver, sold with the tools and plans to turn it into a functional firearm, is not a firearm.

        How NJ can argue that a solid piece of aluminum is materially any different than an 80% lower, is contrary to the federal authority who classified that piece of aluminum as NOT a firearm. In the ATF’s eyes, a block of AL and an 80% lower are the same thing.

        NJ is arbitrarily calling a piece of metal a firearm, and possessing that to be a violation of the law. Apparently while assuming any hunk of aluminum can not be turned into a firearm in someones decently equipped shop. Most here know that is wrong. If an 80% lower is breaking the law, then at some point, so will be owning the material that lower is made from. And/or the tools and knowledge to make it.

        1. avatar Geoff "Just hurry up and *DIE*, RBG..." PR says:

          ” If an 80% lower is breaking the law, then at some point, so will be owning the material that lower is made from.”

          Bingo.

          As it is now, a simple CNC like the ‘Ghost Gunner’ can turn an 80 pct. into a firearm.

          Time marches forward and in a few years a ‘Ghost Gunner’ will be sophisticated enough to be able to turn a raw chunk of aluminum bar stock into a functional AR-pattern lower receiver.

          “And/or the tools and knowledge to make it.”

          As in, the ‘knowledge’ of the software running that CNC. Code the government already considers ‘controlled’ and subject to export controls.

          The future is gonna be interesting, in a Chinese curse kinda way. Potentially, saving up your empty beer cans could be considered constructive possession if you have a source of heat that can melt that aluminum so you can sand cast that 80 percent lower.

          Things get more interesting, thanks to 3-D printers that can now print wax for lost-wax casting.

          Shit is about to get real with guns. We really need challenges to 80 percent laws to make it to SCOTUS. We are gonna need them to rule that home-made firearms by non-prohibited persons is expressly constitutional…

        2. avatar strych9 says:

          “Most here know that is wrong.”

          I’m not saying that it’s right. Malum prohibitum laws are always problematic and abusable. That’s kind of the point I was making.

          These laws are eminently abusable and playing word games isn’t really going to help because “they” get to make the definitions and change them when it suits their purpose. Just look at the ATF’s idea of “constructive intent” and you get the basis for this kind of bullshit. Just because someone has something they could do something with doesn’t mean that they will but in many cases we pass laws under the assumption that only the worst acts with an item are what it will be used for. “Precursor chemicals” in drug cases are the same basic idea. Sure, it might be suspicious that someone buys 100 gallons of some chemical from Home Depot but it’s not illegal and making it illegal means that a different person who’s buying drain cleaner for a legit clog can be prosecuted as if they were mass producing meth. That sort of shit happens in this country. Some guy goes to a hydroponic store to get stuff to grow tomatoes in his basement and gets a SWAT raid looking for a pot farm. It’s happened.

          The fact that I’m pointing out what NJ is likely to argue doesn’t mean I agree with or approve of that argument. It merely means that I can foresee them doing it because I always expect that the government is going to government. Part of doing that is stacking the deck. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it makes it almost impossible to know what you could or couldn’t be charged with in the future. That doesn’t change the fact that they do it.

          Just because it’s not right doesn’t mean that it isn’t what it is. Recognizing what your opponents are likely to do doesn’t mean you’re on their side.

        3. avatar StLPro2A says:

          But, owning an actual single M-16 fire control part and an AR-15 is considered by the ATF to be “constructive intent” of making a fully automatic capable machine gun.

  13. avatar Hannibal says:

    Where’s the ‘consumer fraud’?

    ““Ghost guns” are unregistered weapons…” Nooope, not unless you can shoot it.

    At least that would be the immediate response to a dismissal claim by any reasonable judge. Not sure if they have those in NJ. Better not sell any aluminum, steel, or plastic in the state- you might be selling an ‘unregistered weapon’!

  14. avatar Mindcrime says:

    It’s been said before ….but I’ll say it again… This is what happens when you give
    A Monkey a Machine Gun.

  15. avatar Rswartze says:

    This is another perfect case for pushing way up the ladder, even to the supreme court. We are allowed to sell chunks of aluminum where we want. To say otherwise means they can sue for anything, anywhere which of course is what they actually want. I sincerely hope this becomes another shot in the foot moment.

  16. avatar tmm says:

    Why is a “consumer protection law” seeking to punish the consumer if violated?

  17. avatar Wilbur says:

    According to most reviews online, US Patriot Armory takes the money but never actually ships anything.

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