NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against a gun accessory manufacturer, MEAN LLC (Mean Arms), for aiding the illegal possession of assault weapons in New York, including the weapon used in the mass shooting in Buffalo in May 2022. New York law bans the possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Mean Arms manufactures, sells, and distributes a magazine lock, known as the MA Lock, that is marketed as a device to lock a magazine onto a semiautomatic rifle. However, the lock can easily be removed so that detachable magazines, including high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, can be inserted into a rifle.
In January 2022, the Buffalo shooter purchased a used AR-15 that had an MA Lock installed. According to his manifesto, he was able to easily remove the MA Lock from the AR-15 within a few minutes at home and add 30 round detachable magazines that he used to murder 10 people and injure three others. The lawsuit alleges that the company deceptively and falsely advertises that installing an MA Lock on a weapon makes it legal in New York, thereby aiding and abetting the illegal possession of assault weapons in New York. Through her lawsuit, Attorney General James seeks to stop Mean Arms from doing business in New York and to require the company to pay restitution, damages, and civil penalties for its illegal practices that violated state laws and caused irreparable harm.
“The racist mass shooting at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo was one of the darkest days in the history of our state and our nation,” said Attorney General James. “We lost 10 innocent lives because a hate-fueled individual was able to make an AR-15 even deadlier through a simple change at home. Mean Arms sells the MA Lock device knowing that it can be easily removed to make guns more dangerous, and even gives directions on how to take this action. We cannot undo the devastating harm that was done, but this lawsuit against Mean Arms is part of our ongoing effort to pursue justice for the ten innocent lives that were unjustly taken.”
Mean Arms is a Georgia-based company that makes, sells, and distributes the MA Lock, which according to Mean Arms, is a shear bolt mechanism designed to lock a detachable magazine in place on a semiautomatic rifle. The company sells the MA Lock to New York buyers directly and through third party sellers and deceptively and falsely claims that the product makes weapons compliant with New York’s gun laws. However, the MA lock does not remove a semiautomatic rifle’s capacity to accept a detachable magazine or convert illegal assault weapons into legal weapons in New York.
In fact, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that the company provides step-by-step instructions on the back of its product packaging on how to easily remove the lock.
The back of the packaging of the MA Lock states:
1. Make sure the firearm chamber is CLEAR, UNLOADED and POINTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION!
2. Use any brand of screw extractor from your local hardware store (some brands may work better than others. We prefer a #2 Speed out).
3. To remove the threaded portion of the shear nut left in the MA LOCK sleeve, place the screw extractor into the center of the threaded portion of the shear nut and remove counterclockwise (Please refer to the screw extractor’s instructions for best use).
4. Now you may remove the MA LOCK SLEEVE.
Mean Arms_Removal Instructions
Online videos also show how gun owners can easily remove the lock. Removing the lock allows shooters to use detachable magazines, including high-capacity magazines. The use of these magazines enables a shooter to keep firing rounds without stopping or pausing to reload, increasing the deadliness of an attack.
In January 2022, the Buffalo shooter purchased a semiautomatic rifle in New York with a MA Lock installed and a 10-round magazine. The shooter easily removed the MA Lock from the weapon within a few minutes using a #2 speed out drill bit, the same tool advised in Mean Arms’ removal instructions, and a power drill readily available in his family home.
On May 14, 2022, the shooter inserted multiple 30 round detachable magazines onto his weapon, because he was able to remove the MA Lock. With a pistol grip and the high-capacity magazines, he did not have to stop to reload and when he did reload, he could do so quickly, adding to the deadliness of the attack. He killed 10 people and injured three others.
Through her lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, Attorney General James seeks to require Mean Arms to pay restitution and damages for its illegal practices that violated the statute and caused compensable injuries; stop selling, shipping, or distributing the MA Lock to any person within New York state; pay civil penalties; and disgorge all revenues wrongfully obtained. Attorney General James also seeks to require the company to issue corrective statements regarding their false and misleading public statements on the MA Lock.
Attorney General James would like to thank Everytown for Gun Safety for their partnership in this effort.
“We applaud the New York Attorney General for taking this important first step toward civil legal accountability for the Buffalo shooting massacre last year,” said Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director of Everytown Law. “Assault weapons have no place in our communities, and when reckless actors in the gun industry put profits over public safety and sell products that facilitate the circumvention of laws that keep New Yorkers safe, they must be held to account.”
“Nearly a year ago, we lost ten innocent lives to a tragedy fueled by pure hatred and racism,” said U.S. Representative Brian Higgins. “As we continue to heal as a community and honor the lives we lost, we must also ensure that this devastation does not happen again. Thank you, Attorney General James, for standing up for Buffalo, demanding accountability, and fighting for the safety of New Yorkers.”
“The manufacturers of the murder weapons that are slaughtering Americans every day have shown that not only will they actively undermine efforts to curtail gun violence, they will gladly profit from the murders their weapons of war produce,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “I commend Attorney General James for her action to hold Mean Arms accountable for the murders they made possible. Buffalo, like communities nationwide, has been scarred by the gun industry-promoted violence that is traumatizing our country and it is long past time to hold the purveyors and profiteers of that violence to account.”
“The mass shooting at Tops forever changed our community,” said Erie County Legislature Chair April N. M. Baskin. “As we continue to heal and examine the systemic failures that enabled this racist attack, one thing is abundantly clear: access to guns is a problem, and until gun part manufacturers are held to account, the problem will only persist. That is why I am grateful to Attorney General Letitia James for never backing down and continuing to stand up to gunmakers and enforce our gun laws. Although there is more work to do, this action is a crucial step in ensuring our communities never endure this suffering again.”
“Almost one year ago, 10 people — family members, friends, and neighbors — were murdered by a hateful, racist shooter who was able to purchase a firearm and turn it into an assault weapon at home,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “While nothing can ease the lasting pain of May 14, 2022, we must honor the memories of those we lost by taking steps to ensure it never happens again. Thank you to Attorney General James for taking action to hold this gun part manufacturer accountable for their unscrupulous practices.”
“Ten lives were brutally taken from our community because a hateful individual was able to turn his gun into an assault weapon thanks to instructions from Mean Arms,” said Buffalo City Council President Darius G. Pridgen. “While we grieve and mourn the victims of this massacre, we must also ensure that no one else is able to avoid our laws, and that is what Attorney General James is doing. I thank the Attorney General for her leadership, and I am proud to join her in the fight against gun violence.”
“In the days following the May 14th massacre, New York advanced some of the strongest gun reforms in our nation. During our deepest moments of grief, we honored the 10 lives stolen that day with real policy change that will better protect our communities,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy. “This action by Attorney General James builds upon that promise to do better on behalf of those we lost. I applaud her continued commitment to hold those who enable these horrifying and senseless acts of violence accountable.”
This action continues Attorney General James’ efforts to protect New Yorkers from gun violence and enforce New York’s responsible gun safety laws. Last month, Attorney General James removed 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 took down a ghost gun and narcotics trafficking ring, removing 19 firearms including 12 ghost guns and six high-capacity magazines.
In June 2022, Attorney General James filed a landmark lawsuit against 10 national gun distributors for illegally bringing ghost gun kits into New York and fueling the gun violence crisis. In March, Attorney General James secured a court order stopping the 10 national gun distributors from selling and shipping ghost gun kits into New York. In November 2022, Attorney General James cracked down on online ammunition sellers for illegally shipping ammunition into New York and failing to keep records of the sale. In September 2019, Attorney General James sent cease and desist letters to a number of websites selling ghost gun parts and in July 2020, Attorney General James announced that all those companies had complied with her cease and desist letters.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Sarah Kam and Chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau Lem Srolovic, with support from Special Counsel James Thompson. The Environmental Protection Bureau is under the supervision of the Division of Social Justice which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.