Major Ghost Gun Manufacturer Agrees to Cease Sales in Maryland and Pay $1.2 Million Settlement

Baltimore, Maryland has successfully reached a settlement in a lawsuit against the largest maker of “ghost gun” parts, Polymer80. The company has agreed to stop selling their products in Maryland and pay $1.2 million to the city. This victory follows similar successes in D.C. and Los Angeles, where lawsuits have been used to keep ghost guns off the streets. As part of the settlement, Polymer80 is also required to submit regular compliance reports.

Federal authorities have identified Polymer80, based in Dayton, Nev., as the leading manufacturer of ghost gun parts, responsible for more than 88 percent of ghost guns recovered by police between 2017 and 2021. Last year alone, police departments across the country seized nearly 26,000 ghost guns, representing a 33 percent increase from the previous year.

In the city of Baltimore, Polymer80’s products were found in 91 percent of the ghost guns recovered from January 2020 to April 2022. The number of seizures has also risen dramatically in recent years, from nine in 2018 to 462 in 2021. To address the issue of gun violence, Maryland passed a law banning the sale, receipt, or transfer of unfinished frames or receivers without serial numbers. Baltimore subsequently sued Polymer80, citing this law, federal regulations requiring all firearms to have serial numbers, and Maryland’s Handgun Roster.

Polymer80’s executive vice president, Dan McCalmon, has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Ghost gun parts makers, including Polymer80, argue that their products do not meet the legal definition of firearms and are therefore legal. They claim that the frames and receivers they sell are only 80 percent finished and require further machining and assembly to become functional firearms. However, online videos providing instructions on how to build unserialized guns have become increasingly popular. Although it is not illegal to make a homemade gun, it is illegal to transfer an unserialized firearm to someone else.

In addition to direct online sales, Polymer80 has made their parts available through physical gun dealers and other internet vendors. These factors have contributed to the accessibility and popularity of ghost guns, particularly among teenagers who can obtain and assemble these firearms without providing identification.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has expressed his satisfaction with the settlement, stating that it is a significant step in halting gun violence in the city and throughout Maryland. Approximately 90 percent of homicides in Baltimore involve firearms. The lawsuit highlighted two individuals who were killed with ghost guns in the year leading up to its filing. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Sanford Heisler Sharp law firm assisted Baltimore in pursuing the lawsuit.

The settlement with Polymer80 represents the most comprehensive and strictest injunctive terms imposed on a ghost gun manufacturer thus far. In a separate case, a D.C. court issued a permanent injunction and a $4 million judgement against Polymer80 for falsely informing consumers that purchasing ghost gun parts was legal in the city.

Polymer80 has faced legal challenges in other states as well. Last year, the company agreed to cease sales to California residents and pay $5 million in penalties as part of a settlement with the Los Angeles city attorney.

Mayor Scott believes that cities should not bear the sole responsibility for combating ghost guns and that Congress should take action nationwide. The Biden administration attempted to regulate ghost gun kits by requiring serial numbers and background checks for purchasers, but a federal court in Texas ruled the rule invalid. The administration has appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court has allowed the rule to remain in place while the case is under consideration.

Philip Bangle, senior litigation counsel for the Brady Center, applauded the settlement as a significant step towards curbing the flow of unserialized firearms and healing the city of Baltimore from the injuries and trauma caused by these weapons.