Baltimore sues 'ghost gun' manufacturer Polymer80
The lawsuit accuses Polymer80 of defying the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, as well as Maryland handgun laws
By Alex Mann
BALTIMORE — Baltimore is suing one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of “ghost guns” for allegedly flooding the city with untraceable firearms that are becoming more and more popular in crimes, the mayor’s office said.
Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott is hosting a news conference Wednesday morning to unveil the lawsuit, which will be filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court against Polymer80 Inc., a Nevada-based gun manufacturer that sells kits for customers to put together firearms on their own.
The so-called “ghost guns” make up to more than 19% of firearms seized by the Baltimore Police Department so far this year, according to the mayor’s office. Approximately 91% of those assemble-it-yourself guns recovered by city police were made, in large part, from Polymer80 parts, the office said.
In a statement provided ahead of his news conference, Scott described “ghost guns” as a “devastating menace” to the city.
“This lawsuit shines a light on Polymer80 and individuals who routinely create a marketplace for deadly, untraceable weapons,” Scott’s statement read. “The availability of these weapons — particularly to criminals, juveniles and other people who are prohibited from owning a firearm — presents a growing public health crisis. We must stop Polymer80 and companies like it that profit from destroying our communities.”
A Polymer spokesperson did not return a request for comment. The company already faces lawsuits from several cities, including Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.
According to the mayor’s office, the complaint accuses Polymer of marketing its kits to minors, those convicted of crimes, gun traffickers and others who need to circumvent backgrounds checks and other gun safety measures. The lawsuits alleges that Polymer has flouted the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, as well as Maryland handgun laws, like the law that requires residents to be licensed for handgun ownership.
“This lawsuit is the first step in accountability and, hopefully, ending the flow of these deadly firearms in the community,” said Philip Bangle, senior litigation counsel with the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, which partnered with Baltimore’s law department to bring the suit. The city seeks compensatory damages for policing costs and a court mandate prohibiting Polymer from sending gun kits to Baltimore.
Scott’s news conference comes the same day Maryland’s ban on the so-called “ghost guns” takes effect and as concerns grow about the assembled-at-home firearms cropping up in connection to more and more crimes in the state’s largest city.
Last summer, Baltimore police said “ghost guns” were being used in an increasing number of fatal and nonfatal shootings. City officers seized nine of the untraceable guns in 2018, 30 in 2019, 128 in 2020 and 352 in 2021, Detective Vernon Davis, a department spokesman, said Tuesday. Through the first five months of this year, the department has recovered 187 such firearms.
Prior to 2018, the city wasn’t recovering any ghost guns involved in crimes, Scott’s office said.
Baltimore City School Police have confiscated three ghost guns during the current academic calendar, said Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the union that represents the officers.
Last week, testimony at the trial of a man accused and later acquitted of killing Safe Streets leader Dante Barksdale revealed that the revered violence interrupter was killed with a “ghost gun” made in large part from a kit sold by Polymer80.
Los Angeles sued Polymer after two sheriff’s deputies were seriously wounded by a gunman wielding a firearm comprised of the company’s components during an ambush in 2020 and after a 16-year-old gunned down three children in 2019 at a high school with a gun that featured Polymer parts.
The company sells several kits for handgun frames, which include the grip and magazine chamber, stamped with its “P80″ logo but sans a serial number. People can purchase other parts and put together their pistols at home. Polymer keeps downloadable, step-by-step guides to assemble the kits on its website.
Guns made from such kits circumvent background checks and lack sales documents and serial numbers, making it challenging, if not impossible, for law enforcement to trace the firearms back to purchasers.
Starting Wednesday, Maryland will expand the legal definition of a firearm to include unfinished frames and receivers, making those parts subject to the same regulations and requirements as fully functional weapons. It is illegal to buy or sell a firearm without a serial number or background check.
People in Maryland who have guns assembled from kits without serial numbers have until March 1, 2023 to have a serial number etched into their weapon. The law excludes antique firearms built before Oct. 22, 1968.
According to the mayor’s office, Scott will be joined at his news conference Wednesday by Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Sullivan; Dr. Joseph Sakran, director of emergency general surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Kris Brown, president of the nonprofit organization Brady Campaign.
Baltimore Sun reporter Bryn Stole contributed to this article.
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