Baltimore has sued the nation’s largest maker of so-called “ghost guns” that are easy to assemble, untraceable and increasingly used in violent crime across the country.
The city accuses Polymer80 of causing a “public health crisis,” according to a news release Wednesday. Officials also said the company “intentionally undermines federal and state firearms laws by designing, manufacturing, selling and providing ghost gun kits and parts to buyers who do not undergo a background check.”
The lawsuit is seeking “compensatory damages for policing costs to the City of Baltimore, punitive damages and injunctive relief requiring Polymer80 to stop the flow of ghost guns into Baltimore City,” the release said.
CNN has reached out to Polymer80 and has not heard back.
“We have to crack down on the companies that are profiting off the destruction and death within our communities,” Mayor Brandon Scott said during a news conference Wednesday. “We all know that ghost guns continue to be a huge challenge for Baltimore city. They are a growing menace to the people of Baltimore and quite frankly to residents across the country.”
Also known as “privately made firearms” (PMFs), ghost guns are put together by users, often with parts sold online, in as little as 30 minutes. The weapons do not have serial numbers, making them all the more difficult to track and regulate.
The rise in use of ghost guns comes as cities across the country have seen a rise in violent crime since the onset of the pandemic, alarming lawmakers and law enforcement.
In Baltimore alone, 19% of all firearms recovered this year have been ghost guns, the city release said. That’s nearly double the number of last year around the same period. For all of 2021, 324 ghost guns were recovered, representing 14% of all firearms recovered.
But prior to 2018, Baltimore police had never recovered a ghost gun, the release said.
“Quite frankly, if a young person can’t drink or buy alcohol from a liquor store, if they can’t rent a car, they shouldn’t be able to go online and buy a ghost gun,” Scott said.
It is illegal to buy or sell a ghost gun in the state of Maryland. Specifically, the lawsuit is alleging that with its kits, Polymer80 is circumventing laws like the Gun Control Act, the Maryland Handgun Register law, and the Maryland Handgun Qualification License law.
In April, Maryland joined Washington, DC, and 10 states in banning or restricting the purchase or use of ghost guns.
A CNN analysis this year of 2021 data found several cities reported sharp increases in the number of ghost guns recovered over time, while they still make up a relatively small percentage of the total number of guns recovered by law enforcement.
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Kiely Westhoff and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.