Ghost gun manufacturer agrees to stop sales to Maryland residents

BALTIMORE (AP) — A leading manufacturer of ghost guns has agreed to stop selling its untraceable, unassembled firearms to Maryland residents under a settlement agreement announced Wednesday by the city of Baltimore.

City leaders sued the company, Nevada-based Polymer80, two years ago “in response to the rapid escalation of ghost guns appearing on Baltimore streets and in the hands of minors,” according to the mayor’s office. Officials said the settlement grants the city all measures of relief requested in the lawsuit, including $1.2 million in damages.

“Nine out of ten homicides in Baltimore City are committed with guns,” Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement. “This settlement — and the statement it sends about the harmful impact of these ghost guns — is a critical victory for the effort to confront gun violence in our communities.”

A spokesperson for Polymer80 didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The suit accused Polymer80 of intentionally undermining federal and state firearms laws by designing, manufacturing and providing gun assembly kits without serial numbers to buyers who don’t undergo background checks. It was filed the same day Maryland’s statewide ban on ghost guns went into effect in 2022 following a law change that expanded the definition of a firearm to include “an unfinished frame or receiver.”

The Biden administration in 2022 announced new federal regulations aimed at curbing the proliferation of ghost guns, which authorities say have been turning up at crime scenes across the nation in increasing numbers. The regulations, which include expanding the definition of firearms, were quickly challenged in court by gun rights groups.

Attorneys for the city of Baltimore have argued that Polymer80 falsely classified its gun-making kits as “non-firearms,” allowing them to end up in the hands of convicted felons and minors — people who otherwise would be banned from purchasing firearms.

While Baltimore recorded a significant decline in homicides and shootings last year, city leaders are grappling with a rise in youth violence.

Baltimore leaders partnered with the national nonprofit Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in filing the lawsuit.

“The only market for ghost guns is people who can’t buy guns legitimately at a gun store,” said Philip Bangle, senior litigation counsel for Brady. He questioned why else someone would purchase a firearm they have to build themselves — without quality control checks or other measures to ensure it functions properly when the trigger is pulled.

Polymer80 has been targeted by similar litigation in other cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The city of Los Angeles sued the company after a teenager used its products in a high school shooting that left three children dead. That case similarly yielded a settlement agreement under which Polymer80 agreed to stop selling ghost guns in California. The case in Washington also resulted in a $4 million judgment against Polymer80 and barred the sale of its products to city residents.

But officials in Baltimore said their settlement goes the furthest to date in restricting the company’s operations. Under the agreement, it can’t advertise in Maryland and the sales ban extends to dealers in nearby states doing business with Maryland residents. The company also has to submit quarterly reports documenting all sales of ghost guns in neighboring states, according to city officials.

The lawsuit was also filed against the Maryland gun shop Hanover Armory, which isn’t part of the settlement agreement. That piece of the litigation remains ongoing.

Officials said Baltimore police seized 462 ghost guns last year, a number that demonstrates their prevalence throughout the city.

Scott, who’s running for reelection as Baltimore mayor this year, said the lawsuit shows his administration is “using every tool at its disposal to address the epidemic of gun violence we face.”