The city of Los Angeles has joined Washington, D.C., and several other states and municipalities in suing the “ghost gun” maker Polymer80 for allegedly violating federal and state law. The lawsuit is being supported by Everytown Law, the litigation arm of the anti-gun group, Everytown for Gun Safety.
“Untraceable ghost guns are now the emerging guns of choice across the nation,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a press release. “Nobody who could buy a serialized gun and pass a background check would ever need a ghost gun. Yet we allege Polymer80 has made it easy for anyone, including felons, to buy and build weapons that pose a major public safety threat.”
At a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Los Angeles law enforcement officers reported that about 40 percent of the weapons recovered in Los Angeles in 2020 were unserialized firearms, otherwise known as “ghost guns.”
The Los Angeles Police Department seized about 700 ghost guns last year made from Polymer80 parts, and 17 murders or attempted murders have been tied to ghost guns from any company. Los Angles saw over 300 homicides in 2020.
In his suit, Feuer argues that Polymer80 breaks federal law because it sells firearms without conducting background checks on buyers or engraving serial numbers into their products. Even though the ATF has concluded previously that unfinished frames and receivers do not constitute “firearms” under federal law, Feuer says Polymer80 products are firearms because they are “quickly and easily assembled into operable weapons.”
This “temporal” test defines a firearm based on how quickly a part can be converted into a functioning rifle, handgun, or shotgun. Polymer80 products can be manufactured into firearms by individual users in a relatively short period of time, so they should be considered firearms, according to this argument.
But as the Second Amendment Foundation proved in an amicus brief earlier this year, the federal government and the ATF have consistently defined a firearm by its state of manufacture, not the time it takes to create. Since Polymer80 frames and receivers have not been machined with space for a fire control group, they have not reached the stage of manufacture necessary to constitute firearms—no matter how long it takes to do so.
Furthermore, when Congress defined “firearm” in the Gun Control Act of 1968, it differentiated between “firearms,” which include products that may be “readily converted to expel a projectile,” and “frames or receivers,” which cannot expel a projectile. Los Angeles’s lawsuit conflates “firearms” and “frames and receivers,” the SAF argues, which contradicts congressional intent.
If Polymer80 is actually manufacturing and shipping firearms, it has also violated California state law, according to Feuer. He alleges that the company is violating state law by “aiding and abetting in the manufacture of handguns that do not comply with safety specifications required under California’s Unsafe Handgun Act, as well as failing to comply with California’s certification and serial number requirements.”
Polymer80’s headquarters were raided by the ATF in December of last year. In the warrant, ATF agents appeared to contradict their previous determinations and claimed Polymer80’s “Buy, Build, Shoot” kids constitute firearms. Agents did not make any arrests and no charges were filed.