The state of New Jersey filed a lawsuit on Friday against a producer and distributor of mostly-completed guns, known as “ghost guns.” The state’s attorney general Gurbir Grewal filed suit in New Jersey Superior Court, against James Tromblee, Jr., Patriot Armory’s founder and owner, for fraud violations and deceptive advertising. While this is the first example of prosecutorial action against a ghost gun company, the action is a correctable civil complaint, not a criminal complaint.
Patriot Armory sells receiver blanks, commonly known as “80% lowers.” These are more than simply gun parts, but are nearly-completed guns that, with some additional work, can be made into a usable gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has ruled that 80% lowers are not guns for the purposes of the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Grewal, an outspoken opponent of gun rights, represents one of only six states whose constitution does not protect the right to bear arms — and that number may soon drop to five. Unfortunately for those who wish to own firearms, anti-gun states are placing more hurdles in the way of gun ownership and are exploring new ways of using the legal system to target gun owners.
The attorney general is prosecuting his case on a combination of existing consumer-protection laws and new state laws that ban the possession and/or manufacture of gun parts with the intention of distributing unregistered guns. The state’s theory is that Patriot Armory is misleading its customers into believing that owning and manufacturing ghost guns is perfectly legal in New Jersey. Page three of the legal complaint states that Patriot Armory’s web site said, “Is it legal?: YES!” but did not mention that the company’s product was illegal in the state of New Jersey.
While this lawsuit is Grewal’s first action against a gun company, it is not his first fight involving gun rights. Grewal has previously prosecuted individuals for trafficking ghost guns into New Jersey. Also, he has tried to prevent the distribution of instructions to print 3-D guns, a position for which he is being sued for violating the First Amendment.