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New City Data Shows Rapidly Escalating Ghost Guns Crisis – 11 Cities File Amicus Brief Supporting Everytown Suit Seeking ATF Action


ATF Estimated Last Week That 10,000 Ghost Guns Were Recovered in the U.S. in 2019

Also Last Week, ATF Raided Ghost Gun Manufacturer Previously Named in Everytown Lawsuit as the Leading Seller of Illegal Gun Kits

New York –  Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, released the following statement today after 11 cities, Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, a coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia, and two other gun safety groups filed amicus briefs supporting ongoing litigation against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), seeking to compel ATF to properly regulate ghost guns under federal law. The lawsuit against ATF was brought by Everytown Law in August on behalf of Syracuse, NY; San Jose, CA; Chicago, IL; and Columbia, SC. 

In the cities’ brief, filed by the law firm Walden Macht & Haran LLP, along with other pro bono and city attorneys’ offices, the cities show increasing rates of ghost gun recoveries and argue that ATF’s failure to regulate ghost guns has led to gun crimes that might have been prevented and has frustrated efforts to investigate and prosecute those gun crimes. 

In a separate brief, Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, represented by the law firm Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP,  disclosed that the Los Angeles Police Department has recovered more than 600 ghost guns in 2020 alone, at least 231 of which were used in serious or violent crimes such as murder and attempted murder, kidnapping, and carjacking, and 145 of which were recovered from felons who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. ATF officials, based on data from the agency’s National Tracing Center, recently estimated in a court filing that approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered in the US last year alone.

“Federal law is clear: the core building blocks for firearms cannot be sold without a background check and a serial number, and that rule applies to kits being purchased over the internet and quickly built into untraceable ghost guns,” said Eric Tirschwell, Managing Director for Everytown Law. “Ghost guns are wreaking havoc on cities across the country, which is why more and more cities are joining the fight to compel ATF to do its job and make sure this illegal and deadly industry is forced to follow the law.”

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided the premises of Polymer80, the industry-leading ghost gun manufacturer named in the lawsuit, which is responsible for a flood of ghost guns that is being used to commit crimes in rapidly increasing numbers in cities across America. According to the ATF’s search warrant application, over 86% of the nearly 1500 ghost guns seized by law enforcement and entered into its national ballistics database in 2019 were made from Polymer80 frames. 

Amici cities include Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Durham, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; Los Angeles, California; New York, New York; Paterson, New Jersey; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; Rochester, New York; and Seattle, Washington.

Everytown Law first urged ATF to address the growing menace of unregulated ghost guns in a petition for rulemaking filed back in December 2019, and followed that up with a lawsuit against ATF filed in August 2020.  The lawsuit — brought on behalf of Everytown as well as Syracuse, NY; San Jose, CA; Chicago, IL; and Columbia, SC, with the assistance of the law firm Cooley, LLP — specifically challenged three letters that ATF had issued to Polymer80 in 2015 and 2017, which the company was using on its website to claim its gun kits were legal and did not require serial numbers or background checks.  
In court papers filed last week asking the court to overturn ATF’s prior flawed approach to ghost guns and compel the agency to act to regulate them, Everytown Law highlighted:

  • Ghost guns are being recovered in cities across the country in exponentially increasing numbers, with Polymer80 ghost guns being by far the most common ghost gun make that law enforcement is recovering in multiple cities;
  • Polymer80 ghost guns constituted 90% of all ghost guns recovered in recent years in Syracuse, New York, and over 80% of ghost guns recovered recently in Washington, D.C.;
  • Polymer80 ghost guns have been used in at least five shootings in Chicago, IL; 
  • Ghost guns have been recovered in nine homicide investigations in San Jose, CA, and San Jose police have recovered at least 12 firearms made from Polymer80 kits