Case Highlights Deadly Risks of No-Background-Check, No-Age-Verification Online Sales of Ghost Gun Building Kits to Teens
Fairfax, VA – Everytown Law, along with Weiner, Spivey & Miller, PLC today announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the estates of two 17-year-old Virginians, Calvin Van Pelt and Ersheen Elaiaiser, who were shot and killed by an 18-year-old classmate using an unserialized, self-assembled ghost gun purchased from ghost gun seller 80P Builder. The lawsuit names multiple defendants alleged to have enabled the shooting:
- Salvo Technologies, Inc. and BUL USA, LLC, the alleged owners of the website 80P Builder – are alleged to have packaged and sold, without any kind of background check or age verification, the “complete” handgun kit that the shooter assembled into the Glock-style pistol used in the deaths.
- Polymer80, Inc., which is alleged to create and distribute unserialized pistol frame kits to be resold and assembled into firearms. These firearms are untraceable and sold without a background check.
- Zackary Burkard, the then-18-year-old who shot and killed Van Pelt and Elaiaiser with the pistol he had built using a Polymer80 kit. Burkard was tried and convicted in 2022 of two counts of voluntary manslaughter.
“Our lives will never be the same without Calvin,” said Vanessa Van Pelt and Michael Winfield, parents of Calvin Van Pelt. “No parent should ever go through what we have. These gun sellers should not be selling guns without background checks and putting guns in the hands of 18 year old boys.”
“While nothing will bring back our son and brother we want to see these companies held accountable for making deadly weapons so accessible to young people,” Mashaer Adlan and Komi Elaiaiser, parents of Ersheen Elaiaiser said.
“The shooting of Calvin and Ersheen was a horrific tragedy, and it was preventable had the gun seller taken basic steps to ensure that they were not selling ghost gun-building kits to teenagers in violation of law,” said Len Kamdang, Director of Litigation Strategy and Trials at Everytown Law. “This was not just the act of one violent and troubled teen. As the lawsuit alleges, reckless practices in the gun industry are responsible for placing this gun in the shooter’s hands and allowing this tragedy to occur, and this lawsuit is intended to impose accountability.”
“In filing this lawsuit, the Van Pelt and Elaiaiser families have chosen to channel their grief of their losses into action,” said Ed Weiner, founding partner at Weiner, Spivey & Miller. “By holding these companies responsible, they seek to reduce illegal gun sales and save other families from the heartache of losing a child.”
On April 25, 2021, Calvin Van Pelt and Ersheen Elaiaiser arrived at the home of a high school classmate to settle an argument that had begun on social media – both Van Pelt and Elaiaiser were unarmed.
Also present was 18-year-old Zackary Burkard. Burkard arrived armed with a Polymer80 Glock-style handgun, which he had previously purchased online from 80P Builder, a webstore owned by Salvo Technologies and BUL USA. The result was deadly. At the end of a fist-fight between Ersheen Elaiaiser and another unarmed teenager, Burkard shot Elaiaiser in the chest and Calvin Van Pelt in the back. Both died from their injuries.
The lawsuit, filed by Weiner, Spivey & Miller, PLC, with whom Everytown Law is serving as co-counsel, alleges that:
- 80P Builder sold Zackary Burkard a firearm-building kit online;
- The kit contained all of the parts needed to quickly assemble a handgun;
- 80P Builder made no effort to perform a background check, and;
- 80P Builder made no effort to verify Burkard’s age.
As a result, 18-year-old Burkard was able to obtain a handgun, despite federal laws that (1) require licensed firearm sellers to conduct background checks, and (2) restrict the purchase of handguns by youths under the age of 21.
The lawsuit alleges that defendants Salvo Technologies, Inc., BUL USA, LLC and Polymer80 Inc.:
- Intentionally structured their businesses to circumvent firearm laws;
- Knew that their ghost gun kits would be especially attractive to people who were unauthorized to purchase handguns, such as teenagers like the shooter, and;
- Acted with reckless indifference to the foreseeable consequences of their conduct.
The lawsuit further alleges that: “This shooting would not have occurred, and Calvin and Ersheen would still be alive today, were it not for the negligent, reckless and unlawful business practices of the 80P Builder Defendants and Polymer80. The lawsuit includes multiple claims, including but not limited to negligence, negligent entrustment, conspiracy and public nuisance. The plaintiffs seek $25 million in compensatory damages.
The number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement agencies and submitted to the ATF has skyrocketed in recent years – increasing by over 1,000% between 2017 and 2021. Because ghost guns have no serial numbers, the ATF is able to trace less than 1% of these weapons to their original purchasers.
Weiner, Spivey & Miller, PLC, founded in 2000 and located in Fairfax, VA, represents clients in a broad range of personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Everytown Law is the largest and most experienced team of litigators in the U.S. working full-time on advancing gun violence prevention in the courts. Everytown Law has been and is involved in several other lawsuits seeking accountability from the ghost gun industry, including: a suit filed by the survivor of the Saugus High School shooting against a different ghost gun manufacturer; a suit filed by two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies also against Polymer80; and a recently settled suit filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney against Polymer80.
The Everytown Law team representing the plaintiffs includes Eric Tirschwell, Executive Director and Chief Litigation Counsel; Len Kamdang, Director, Litigation Strategy and Trials; Andrew Nellis, Counsel; and Carly Lagrotteria, Counsel. Everytown Law has filed to appear in the case as co-counsel representing the estates of Calvin Van Pelt and Ersheen Elaiaiser against Defendants Salvo Technologies, BUL USA, and Burkard only.
More information regarding the specifics of this case can be found here.