Philadelphia sues two primary ghost gun distributors in next step to combat city’s gun violence
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In the latest development in the fight against the gun violence crisis, the City of Philadelphia announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Polymer 80, Inc. and JSD Supply.
The two gun manufacturers are among the largest suppliers of ghost guns confiscated in Philadelphia.
“This legal action aims to combat gun violence that continues to plague our communities — most often in Philadelphia’s Black and Brown neighborhoods — by stopping ghost guns at the sources,” said Philadelphia City Solicitor Diana Cortés during a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday.
The lawsuit alleges that Polymer 80 Inc. and JSD Supply have perpetuated the gun violence crisis and have threatened the public’s right to health and safety with its marketing, selling, and dispersing of unserialized ghost gun kits into Philadelphia.
Cortés noted that the two defendants ship their products to any address in Philadelphia without any required legal background check or any other efforts to verify the buyer’s age, identity or criminal history — a contrast from Pennsylvania law.
During his remarks, Mayor Jim Kenney underscored that reducing violence and creating safer communities remain the greatest priorities for his Administration.
“We know that investing in prevention and law enforcement has to be part of the solution, but make no mistake, the root of the problem is the proliferation of guns in our city,” said Mayor Kenney.
“Guns are the common denominator in every single shooting,” he continued.
In 2022 alone, the Philadelphia Police Department confiscated 575 ghost guns while conducting criminal investigations.
As of the lawsuit filing date, 87% of the ghost guns recovered in criminal investigations in 2023 were manufactured by Polymer80.
“Manufacturers of these weapons do need to be held accountable for what they’re doing,” added Kenney.
The Philadelphia Law Department is filing the suit with co-counsel Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Hausfeld law firm.
David Pucino, Deputy Chief Counsel of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and his colleagues travel across the country to reduce the number of gun-related injuries and death.
In doing so, he has learned “one single thing,” he said.
“When people who should not have guns, who are not legally allowed to have guns somehow get access to them, that’s when people get shot and that’s when people get killed,” he underscored.
Pucino highlighted that while it’s hard work preventing people who should not have guns from getting them, the fact that there is an entire industry focused on doing the exact opposite makes it much harder.
“When making a sale, they don’t know who the person is. They don’t know if this person has a history of felonies, could be a risk of suicide, could be a child, could be a gun trafficker. They have no idea because it doesn’t matter to them, what matters is making the sale,” he added.
Since the start of 2023, 190 individuals — including children — have lost their lives to gun violence, while an additional 754 people have been shot and seriously injured.
“The gun violence epidemic in Philadelphia is a serious threat to the health of the public,” Cortés noted.
As the City’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole often thinks of how to take a public health apporach to gun violence.
She highlighted the importance of looking at the environment, the gun itself and the gun user.
“Our state and federal laws recognize the fact that most gun crimes are committed by a few individuals and that we can recgonize our highest-risk individuals through their past actions,” said Bettigole.
The absence of background checks when purchasing a gun from Polymer 80 Inc. and JSD Supply makes it easier for high-risk individuals with a history of violent acts and firearm offenses to obtain guns.
“In doing so, they are putting all Philadelphians at risk,” she added.
The prevalence of ghost guns and privately made firearms [PMF] play a huge role in the increase of gun violence plaguing the city.
According to Michael Garvey, head of the PPD Crime Laboratory, PMFs have started to see a large increase over the last five years.
“Starting in 2019, we saw 95 per year,” he said. “Prior to that, we didn’t even count them because there was less than five for the three years prior to that.”
Garvey added that by 2020, the increase went from 95 to 250; by 2021, jumped up to 571; and in 2022, the number was 575.
“And so far, to date for 2023… we’re now up to 292,” he added, noting that PMFs are the third most common gun used in a crime event in Philadelphia.
Its prevalence makes the process of finding out how that firearm was used in the crime is slowed down as they are not able to trace it back to its first purchaser or any sale afterward.
This latest lawsuit seeks to address that very issue.
“If we as a city are serious about ending the violence, then suing the manufacturers are a critical next step,” said Kenney.