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July 05, 2023

City of Philadelphia files lawsuit against two ghost gun manufacturers

The suit aims to stop the untraceable firearms from being sold because they don't require background checks

Ghost guns lawsuit Provided Image/Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General

Philadelphia is suing ghost gun manufacturers Polymer80, Inc. and JSD Supply in an effort to get untraceable weapons off the streets. This photo is from a raid in 2022 in which law enforcement seized privately made firearms.

Philadelphia is experiencing a significant proliferation of illegally obtained guns on its streets. While many firearms are resold after being straw-purchased, ghost guns — which are bought online and assembled at home — find their way to people who are not legally allowed to carry them.

A new lawsuit by city leaders aims to stop distributors of ghost guns from selling the kits.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Jim Kenney, joined by other figures in the city, announced the suit, which names Polymer80, Inc. and JSD Supply, two ghost gun brands often confiscated by Philly policeFiled with Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Hausfeld law firm, the suit says the distributors "have perpetuated the gun violence crisis and threatened the public's right to health and safety by marketing, selling, and dispersing unserialized ghost gun kits into Philadelphia."

The city and partners in the suit also want Polymer80, Inc. and JSD Supply to pay damages for the harm they have caused with their kits, which do not require background checks. Ghost guns are sold in parts and are often assembled using standard household tools. They are untraceable to police because they don't have serial numbers. 

Philly police officers seized 575 ghost guns last year. This year, 87% of recovered ghost guns were manufactured by Polymer80. 

"We are holding these distributors accountable for supplying ghost guns into our streets and for the havoc they have wreaked in Philadelphia communities," Kenney said. "Public safety is our top priority, and we are using every available resource to address and prevent the trauma and irreparable loss caused by gun violence. I am grateful to the Law Department for their efforts to save lives and seek justice through this lawsuit."

Since January 2020, there have been at least 1,794 homicides in Philadelphia, primarily by gun violence, police data says. Straw-purchased and privately made firearms are two of the most used guns in those instances, law enforcement officials said. 

"Ghost guns in the hands of criminals are a growing problem for law enforcement nationwide, including Philadelphia," City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson said. "It's easy to find both individual parts for guns and complete kits for sale on the internet that provide everything needed for assembly. Ghost guns are not traceable because the parts lack serial numbers. Back in 2020, City Council approved my legislation regulating the manufacture of ghost guns in Philadelphia and the transfer of the tools and equipment used to make ghost guns. The lawsuit being filed by the Kenney Administration is another step by City leaders to do everything we can to get illegal guns off of our streets."

Across the country in 2021, nearly 20,000 ghost guns were reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as being recovered by law enforcement. 

Last April, President Joe Biden introduced a rule to regulate ghost guns and combat gun violence. It stated that ghost guns qualify as firearms under the Gun Control Act, which requires manufacturers to include serial numbers on the kits' frame or receiver. Commercial sellers must become federally licensed and run background checks before a sale. Biden also added that if a person sells a privately made gun, the dealer must attach a serial number before reselling it. But sellers have found ways to circumvent the rule, The New York Times reported.

"These untraceable guns are increasingly the firearm of choice for criminals intent on committing crimes with a gun in Philadelphia — precisely because they're not traceable. We cannot wait for help from Washington and Harrisburg on the Gun issue because, far too often, it never comes. So we applaud this step by the Kenney administration to sue these gun part makers and support it wholeheartedly," said City Council President Darrell Clarke.