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Baltimore City sues nation's largest ghost gun manufacturer

Jon Whitton via flickr

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced Wednesday that the city has filed a lawsuit against Polymer80, Inc., the country’s largest manufacturer of untraceable, unserialized firearms also known as ghost guns.

During a press conference Wednesday morning at City Hall, Scott called ghost guns “a growing menace to the people of Baltimore.” They are a problem, he said, that is only growing more severe.

“The number of ghost guns we are seeing on our streets in the hands of violent criminals is growing continuously from 128 ghost guns in 2020 that we seized and recovered to 352 last year and already 187 here in 2022,” Scott said.

The city filed the suit in Baltimore Circuit Court on the day a state law making the ghost guns subject to the same restrictions as all firearms in Maryland went into effect. Scott said the suit will ensure people’s safety.

According to the Mayor’s office, Polymer80 Inc. is behind 91% of all seized ghost guns in Baltimore.

Officials at Polymer80, a Nevada-based company, could not be reached for comment. The phone number listed online has been disconnected.

“As long as people who are not legally allowed to possess a firearm …have the opportunity to obtain and build these tools of death and destruction and violence, we will not be able to build the safer future for Baltimore that we all want to see,” he said.

Kris Brown, the President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said by designing, manufacturing, and selling parts and kits to craft unserialized, untraceable firearms to people who do not undergo background checks, the company is intentionally undermining federal and state firearms laws.

“Polymer 80’s primary market consists of those who want to evade law enforcement or who cannot obtain a gun from a federal firearms licensee,” Brown explained.

Brown said the case is important because while the number of ghost guns is rising in the city, so too are gun-related deaths, though there is no published evidence of a concrete connection.

“What we have seen over time is a huge increase in Baltimore, as we have in cities across this country in the sale and the carnage associated with ghost guns,” she said.

Dr. Joseph Sakrin, a Johns Hopkins trauma surgeon, said he knows what it’s like when a family learns their loved one didn’t survive.

Sakrin said while mass shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas, last week and the previous week in Buffalo, N.Y., tend to dominate the news cycle, smaller incidents are just as important.

“Every day, in cities like Baltimore,” Sakrin said, “we have young, Brown and Black men, high school students, and even pregnant mothers that are being slaughtered on our streets.”

There is no one solution to this crisis, he said, but this lawsuit is a start.

“Tackling this complex public health problem requires us to take a multifaceted approach, where we can really tailor our solutions to the specific gun-related injuries, and stopping the unregulated proliferation of ghost guns is one of those steps.”

Baltimore City Chief Solicitor Jim Shea confirmed the city is seeking damages. He did not indicate a specific amount, but said it is “substantial.”

Callan Tansill-Suddath is a State House Reporter for WYPR, where she covers the General Assembly.