Brooklyn Man's Gun Hobby Leads to a SWAT Raid and a Harrowing Legal Fight for His Freedom
'Shall not be infringed' used to mean something.
Dexter Taylor is a 52-year-old native New Yorker and a software engineer who enjoys building things. When he discovered the world of gun manufacturing, he believed he had found a new hobby and possibly a small business opportunity. Now, he is locked in a legal battle for his freedom against the state of New York.
I spoke with Taylor on my podcast, where he laid out the story. He had decided to start building firearms and purchased various parts online using his credit card. “Ever since I was a kid, I was really, like most red-blooded American kids, I was interested in guns and tanks and fighter planes because it was cool,” he said, recalling getting interested in gunsmithing three or four years ago.
“I found out that you can actually legally buy a receiver and you can machine that receiver to completion, and you buy your parts and you put them together and you've got a pistol or a rifle. And once I saw that I was hooked. I was like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever. This is the most cool thing you could possibly do in your machine shop.’”
Years after Taylor began his new hobby, the ATF and New York City Police Department (NYPD) showed up at his home to arrest him. “A joint SWAT ATF task force raided my house, broke down my door,” he said.
“I'd go into bed listening to an audiobook, woke up, and I heard voices that were not the audiobook. Then I heard a bang and then I heard. That sound. I saw weapon lights flickering under the door of my bedroom. First thing I did was I said, Hello? I thought they had the wrong place. Because it never occurred to me that someone quietly sitting at home manufacturing rifles or pistols or whatever, would be a problem.”
The officers arrested Taylor, who spent one week in jail on Rikers Island.
On April 22, 2022, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced the indictment of Dexter Taylor for purchasing “$10,000 worth of gun parts online to build illegal, untraceable firearms known as ghost guns.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Dexter Taylor, 51, of Bushwick. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Phyllis Chu on a 37-count indictment in which he is charged with multiple counts of second-, third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, prohibition on unfinished frames or receivers and one count of unlawful possession of pistol ammunition.
Taylor was not suspected or charged with any violent offenses and has a clean criminal record. Nevertheless, he is facing 18 years in prison.
New York attorney Vinoo Varghese, who is representing Taylor, is challenging the constitutionality of New York’s gun control laws, arguing that they are overly restrictive and not in line with the Second Amendment. He told RedState that “there was no criminal intent on [Taylor’s] part.”
The attorney explained that in other cases of this type, judges are “dismissing defendant’s Second Amendment claims” because they did not apply for a license, which ostensibly means they lack standing to make this defense. However, Varghese, in his motion to dismiss Taylor’s case, used government data to show that it would have been “futile” for Taylor to try to obtain a license since the state issues so few permits to carry firearms.
“However, what we did was we actually got the numbers from the NYPD. It took about eight or nine months to get them. When we got them, it showed that it would have been futile for Dexter to have applied for a gun license, because he had less than four percent chance of getting a gun license.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling in New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen declared that the state’s gun licensing scheme was unconstitutional and also opened the door for a plethora of firearm restrictions to be challenged in court. This prompted New York to pass even more gun laws to get around the decision. In fact, the NYPD is now granting fewer gun permits than it did before the Bruen decision.
The NYPD approved fewer new licenses to people requesting permits to carry or keep firearms in their homes or businesses in 2022 than the year prior, data obtained by THE CITY shows — despite the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a key provision of the state’s long-standing gun control law violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
In 2021, the NYPD — which vets firearm permits — received 4,663 applications and approved 2,591 of them, about 56%, all under the stricter “proper cause” standard the Supreme Court struck down last year. That standard required gun owners in New York to show “proper cause” in order to receive a permit to carry a weapon, but the court said licenses should be granted by default unless there was a specific reason to deny an applicant.
The low probability of obtaining a gun permit in New York City reinforces Varghese’s unconstitutionality argument. The lawyer is also challenging New York’s new licensing regime, which was created after the Bruen decision, arguing that it also is unconstitutional.
For his part, Taylor, a black man who happens to be conservative, referred to his case as “a civil rights issue” and argued that “New York State has no more right to tell me that I may not keep and bear arms than it has to tell me I have to sit in the back of the bus.”
He told RedState that he hopes that New York will “abide by the Constitution and respect the civil rights of ALL its residents, irrespective of their color or their ZIP code,” and that “conservatives [would] stop writing off those of us who live in cities -- because we care about this Republic too.”
A GiveSendGo campaign has been created to help fund Taylor’s legal battle against the state.
Chasing Liberty is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.