Philadelphia announces lawsuit against two gun manufacturers after police say ghost guns were used in Kingsessing mass shooting

The lawsuit says Polymer80, Inc. and JSD Supply “intentionally undermine” federal and state law by selling firearm kits without background checks.

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks into a microphone at a podium at City Hall while other city officials look on.

City leaders gathered at City Hall on July 5, 2023 to announce a lawsuit against Polymer80, Inc. and JSD Supply to crackdown on ghost guns within the city. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

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Philadelphia is suing two gun manufacturers for their alleged part in the city’s gun violence crisis.

Mayor Jim Kenney announced the lawsuit Wednesday after Philadelphia police said ghost guns were used in Monday’s mass shooting that killed five and injured two others in the city’s Kingsessing neighborhood — although Kenney said his office had been planning the lawsuits against Polymer80, Inc. and JSD Supply for several weeks.

The companies are among the largest suppliers of ghost guns confiscated in Philadelphia and “perpetuated the gun violence crisis and threatened the public’s right to health and safety,” according to a release from the Mayor’s Office.

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Ghost guns get their names because they are untraceable by law enforcement. They are commonly made from parts sold by firearm manufacturers, similar to the ones named in the suit. Pa. does not require firearm purchasers to have a license.

City Solicitor Diana Cortes speaks into a microphone.
City Solicitor Diana Cortes said the lawsuit is a “full court press” designed to stop of proliferation of ghost guns within Philadelphia. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The lawsuit alleges the manufacturers “intentionally undermine” federal and state law by designing, manufacturing, and selling gun kits and parts to buyers without background checks.

During a Wednesday news conference announcing the lawsuit, Kenney said some kits can be assembled in minutes “by virtually anyone” using “simple household tools.”

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks into a microphone.
During the press conference at City Hall, Mayor Jim Kenney thanked Philadelphia police for their response to the shooting in Kingsessing and said “there is no greater priority for our administration than to reduce violence.” (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

“In Philadelphia, our police department has seen over a 300% increase in the number of ghost guns in the last four years, which corresponds to the rise in violent crime on our streets,” Kenney said. “We’ve made numerous joint calls for gun safety and legislation that can help us do more to protect our communities. While lawmakers have not answered any of these requests, as a matter of fact, they’ve stood in our way and superseded many of the things we’ve tried to do.”

Officials say Monday’s mass shooting in Kingsessing underscores the need for action. On Wednesday, police announced the weapons used in the shooting, an AR-15 and a 9mm handgun, were both ghost guns.

“If he would’ve dropped that weapon and got away, we would’ve had no way to trace that weapon back to him,” Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore said.

Philadelphia has sued the state multiple times over the years targeting the state’s Uniform Firearms Act, which says municipalities can’t enact their own gun regulations.

City Council President Darrell Clarke criticized politicians for celebrating “freedom” on Independence Day while the city is taking “a route that we shouldn’t have to take because of the unwillingness, the lack of courage of legislators.”

“The people in the neighborhoods, in Kingsessing, and neighborhoods across the city, they don’t have the freedom to walk to the store at night because some idiot has a gun and he’s out there shooting randomly,” Clarke said. “They don’t have the freedom to go to school without worrying about getting shot. They don’t have the freedom to drive their car without worrying about somebody putting a gun to their head and saying, ‘Give me your car.’”

City Council President Darrell Clarke speaks into a microphone.
City Council President Darrell Clarke criticized “the lack of courage of legislators on the state side” for the rising number of gun violence incidents across the country. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

“So if they’re going to be engaged in this whole thing called freedom, which is so important in our nation, get engaged in something meaningful, that the overwhelming number of the people in the country get rid of assault weapons, stop ghost guns, stop appealing the serialization of ghost guns,” Clarke said.

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In 2022, the Philadelphia Police Department confiscated 575 ghost guns while conducting criminal investigations. So far, in 2023, 87% of the ghost guns recovered in criminal investigations 2023 were manufactured by Polymer80.

Polymer80 has faced multiple lawsuits across the country, including from the cities of Los Angeles and Baltimore, and were forced to pay Washington D.C. $4 million in damages. Philly’s lawsuit seeks payment of damages and the creation of “an abatement fund to remediate the harms caused by the defendants due to the use of ghost guns in Philadelphia communities,” the release states.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story inaccurately described Pennsylvania’s firearm purchasing laws.

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