On May 11, 2023, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit against Mean Arms, a Georgia-based gun part and accessory manufacturer, alleging in part that “simple removal of a [Means Arms] lock facilitates mass murder.”
New York bans the possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but residents can still own semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s, as long as they either lack certain military-style features, such as pistol grips or collapsible stocks, or utilize fixed magazines. To purportedly make an AR-style rifle compliant with New York law, some companies offer locks to fix a 10-round magazine within the rifle’s receiver. With only a fixed magazine, a shooter must partially disassemble the rifle to reload it — a time-consuming affair that, in a mass shooting, could provide time for people to escape.
Previously, on its since-edited website, Mean Arms had marketed its “MA Lock” as one of these state-compliant devices, stating that it was “[d]eveloped for states with intrusive laws requiring fixed magazines” and “installing the MA Lock makes AR firearms legal and compliant.” But according to James’ complaint, the lock is easy to remove, and the company even offers instructions on how to do it on the back of the packaging.
In January 2022, the Buffalo shooter purchased a used AR-15, in this case a Bushmaster XM-15 E2S Target rifle, equipped with an MA Lock. According to his manifesto and Discord “diary” entries, the shooter learned that he could remove the lock when he purchased the weapon. Later, he states that he watched a YouTube video where the host described how the MA Lock could be drilled out and mentioned that the packaging recommended using a SpeedOut screw-extracting drill bit for the task.
Once he had removed the MA Lock with a drill and the recommended drill bit, the shooter states that he watched other YouTube videos to learn how to install an AR-15 magazine release that he purchased from Anderson Manufacturing, which allowed the rifle to accept detachable, high-capacity magazines. These magazines are illegal in New York. The shooter was able to load and unload several 30-round magazines in a matter of seconds during his racist attack at the Tops supermarket, killing 10 people and wounding three others.
According to a press release, the New York attorney general’s 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 complaint was filed with the New York State Supreme Court.