Attorney General James Fights to Keep Dangerous Assault Weapons Out of Communities

Multistate Coalition of 18 Attorneys General Defends Delaware Ban on Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Magazines

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today took action to defend legislation that bans dangerous assault weapons and restricts the use of large capacity magazines. Joining a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Attorney General James urged the court to reject challenges to Delaware laws banning assault weapons and restricting large capacity magazines that were enacted in 2022. Gun safety measures are an important part of fighting the flow of illegal guns into New York. Seventy-five percent of all crime-related guns recovered in New York originated from out of state, with the “iron pipeline” running up the East Coast being a top source for trafficked weapons. Like New York, Delaware bans assault weapons, restricts large capacity magazines, and prohibits bump stocks and other devices that increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons. The challenge to Delaware's laws puts New Yorkers at risk by making it easier to obtain dangerous weapons in nearby states.

“Assault weapons are designed to be used on battlefields and military bases, not in neighborhoods and schools,” said Attorney General James. “Far from making people safer, these deadly weapons are a clear and ever-present danger in communities throughout our nation. The iron pipeline means that a gun purchased legally elsewhere can be smuggled into New York, putting our families at risk. That is why I will fight tirelessly and use every tool at my disposal to get assault weapons off the streets and defend laws that stop gun violence.”

State laws like Delaware’s that restrict assault weapons and other deadly accessories are an important tool to fight gun trafficking on the “iron pipeline,” a route through the East Coast in which guns are trafficked north to places like New York from southern states with fewer regulations. Although numerous East Coast states like Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland have successfully enacted assault weapons bans, striking down Delaware’s ban could present a danger to these and other nearby states.

Attorney General James and the coalition of attorneys general argue that Delaware’s laws should be upheld because they are in line with common restrictions at the state and federal levels. Nine other states, including New York, have enacted similar assault weapons bans and 14 other states, including New York, have enacted similar restrictions on large capacity magazines. In addition, the attorneys general assert that Delaware’s laws are in line with the Second Amendment because they restrict dangerous weapons that are not commonly used or useful for self-defense. Assault weapons were used in over 30 percent of mass shootings in the past decade, and they were used for self-defense in just 0.2 percent of active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2021.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

This amicus brief is a part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to address gun violence throughout New York and across the nation. She recently joined a multistate coalition of attorneys general in an amicus brief before the Supreme Court urging the justices to uphold a federal law preventing domestic abusers from accessing guns. In May, Attorney General James sued a gun accessory manufacturer that aided the Buffalo mass shooter. In April, she took action to remove more than 3,000 guns off New York’s streets in a single day through the first-ever statewide gun buyback program, and has removed over 7,000 guns from New York since taking office. In March, Attorney General James and the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force took down a firearm and drug trafficking operation that illegally sold guns, including ghost guns and assault weapons, in New York City. The takedown recovered 19 firearms, including 12 ghost guns. Also in March, Attorney General James secured a court order banning 10 gun distributors from selling and shipping ghost gun parts into New York. In December 2022, Attorney General James and the task force removed 57 illegal firearms, including 51 ghost guns, as part of a 438-count indictment against three individuals. In June 2022, Attorney General James sued 10 national gun distributors for bringing ghost gun parts into New York.

This matter is being handled by Deputy Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood of the Division of Appeals and Opinions.