New York AG sues gun company over device used by Buffalo mass shooter

The company offered instructions on how to turn guns into even deadlier weapons.

May 11, 2023, 3:25 PM

A Georgia company that made a gun accessory the shooter in the 2022 Buffalo grocery store massacre used to modify his AR-15 rifle into "an even deadlier" weapon is being accused in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James of aiding and abetting in the racially-motivated rampage that killed 10 Black people.

James is suing Mean Arms, which makes, sells and distributes a device meant to lock a magazine filled with ammunition onto a semiautomatic rifle, like the one authorities said Payton Gendron used to fatally shoot his victims at the Tops store on the east side of Buffalo.

The lawsuit, filed nearly a year after the May 14, 2022, mass shooting, alleges the company falsely advertised that the device, known as an MA Lock, makes the weapon legal in New York, but also contains instructions on how to remove the lock, thereby aiding Gendron’s modification of the gun into one that is illegal to possess in the state. According to the lawsuit, the lock can easily be removed so that detachable magazines, including high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and are illegal in New York, can be inserted into a rifle.

Payton Gendron (C) is escorted back into the courtroom by deputies after a disruption during sentencing, Feb. 15, 2023, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Derek Gee/Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

The lawsuit includes a photo of the device’s packaging with instructions for removing the device.

"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," James said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "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," the statement said.

Mean Arms has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Gendron purchased a used AR-15 that had an MA Lock installed in January 2022. According the lawsuit and to writings Gendron posted online and reviewed by investigators, Gendron removed the MA Lock within a few minutes at home, using a power drill with a #2 speed out drill bit, the same tool advised in Mean Arms’ removal instructions.

PHOTO: A lawsuit filed on May 11, 2023, by New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Georgia gun company, Mean Arms, of "aiding and abetting" the shooter in the 2022 Buffalo grocery store massacre.
A lawsuit filed on May 11, 2023, by New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Georgia gun company, Mean Arms, of "aiding and abetting" the shooter in the 2022 Buffalo grocery store massacre. The lawsuit alleges the company's device, known as an MA Lock, locks the magazine onto a semiautomatic rifle, making it legal to possess in New York. At the same time, packaging of the device includes directions on how to modify a rifle to take high-capacity magazines, which are illegal in the state.
New York State Attorney General

On the day of the mass shooting, the shooter inserted multiple 30-round detachable magazines to his weapon. 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, the lawsuit said.

Attorney General of New York Letitia James speaks at the Global Citizen NOW Summit at The Glasshouse, April 28, 2023, in New York.
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen

Gendron pleaded guilty to multiple counts of murder and a state charge of domestic terrorism motivated by hate and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He awaits prosecution on federal charges that could include the death penalty.

The lawsuit seeks to stop Mean Arms from doing business in New York and to require the company to pay restitution, damages and civil penalties. The lawsuit also seeks to require the company to issue corrective statements regarding their allegedly false and misleading public statements on the MA Lock.