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Baltimore sues ghost gun maker

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Mayor of Baltimore Brandon Scott said on Tuesday the city plans to sue Polymer80, one of the nation’s largest makers of “ghost gun” kits – untraceable firearms that have proliferated on city streets and contributed to an outbreak of violence.

Officials plan to file the complaint on Wednesday, the same day a state law prohibiting the sale, receipt, and transfer of an unfinished frame or receiver that does not have a serial number by the manufacturer comes into effect.

“Ghost Weapons are a devastating threat to the people of Baltimore,” Scott said in a statement. “The availability of these weapons – especially to criminals, minors and others who are prohibited from owning a firearm – presents a growing public health crisis. We are doing everything in our power to stop corporations involved in the proliferation of phantom weapons and profiting from the destruction of our communities.

Baltimore is the latest major city to announce its intention to sue Polymer80. Two years ago, the DC Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the company, and last year Los Angeles also sued the company.

With gun restrictions stalled in Congress, President Biden took executive action in April which imposes a new “phantom gun” rule, designed to ease the push felt across the country.

Maryland’s largest city has reported more than 300 murders a year for the past seven years, and city officials are scrambling to find ways to stem gun violence. Police recovered 352 ghost guns last year, an increase of more than 1,000% from 2019. So far this year, authorities have seized 187 guns without serial numbers, according to a spokesperson for the city. Earlier this year, the police chief said officers linked 69 acts of violence to ghost guns recovered in 2021.

A Polymer80 official did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The company, in response to Biden’s rule announcement in April, said it would “mount a rigorous defense of our Second Amendment rights” in a Instagram post of the president holding pieces of a ghost gun kit.

“Polymer80 will continue to operate legally,” the account said. “Our products are still legal, however, be sure to check state and local regulations to ensure compliance.”

Law enforcement officials from the local to the federal level have sought more tools to combat the growing use of unmarked firearms as violent crime has increased, but it’s too early to assess. the success of early efforts to regulate them, said Alex McCourt, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of legal research for the Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

Gun deaths have eclipsed car crashes as the leading killer of children and teens in 2020 and 2021, with black youth aged 1 to 19 dying from guns three times more often than any other group during those years, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Local law enforcement officials say the explosive rate of firearms being seized and the type of people – usually young men – who are increasingly using them is chilling.

“That scares me and it comes from a guy who turned 21 in June,” Montgomery County Police Lt. Brent Kearney said. Montgomery has recovered 100 ghost guns so far this year, surpassing his total for 2021. Prince George’s County officials say police recovered 27 ghost guns in 2019 and the number skyrocketed to 264 the year last. In the first five months of this year, the ministry has already seized 151 firearms.

The national gun control debate has intensified in recent weeks following mass shootings in New York and Texas that claimed the lives of 31 people, including 19 elementary school students.

The new federal rule will augment Maryland’s ban and the efforts of other states, including California, New Jersey and Connecticut, to crack down on untraceable firearms, McCourt said.

Maryland law requires that previously purchased guns be properly imprinted with a serial number by a federally licensed dealer. Possession of a ghost gun without a serial number, which is assembled from spare parts and sold in kits on the Internet, becomes illegal on March 1, 2023.

Legislation was a top priority for Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

Maryland Del. Lesley Lopez (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the House bill, said there has been an increase in youth gun violence in Maryland and across the country, linked to phantom guns.

Last week, a Prince George’s County student was arrested and charged with bringing a disassembled ghost gun to Fairmont Heights High School. Earlier this year, a teenager allegedly shot a 15-year-old Montgomery County student in a high school bathroom using a ghost gun.

Lopez ordered a Polymer80 frame from an assault rifle to see how easy it would be to get it.

“I recently bought, you know, seasonal allergy medication, and it was more difficult than buying the receiver online,” she said Tuesday. Lopez showed off the gun part at a virtual press conference earlier this year to rally behind the bill. “He just asked for a physical mailing address and my credit card information. Nothing more.”

Lopez said the company that sold her the ghost gun didn’t ask her how old she was, if she had a protective order, if she had a history of drug or alcohol use, or if she was a citizen. – all of which are screening questions for owning a firearm in Maryland.