Gun enthusiasts and hobbyists have long been able to assemble their own firearms at home without running afoul of laws regarding registration.
But as those do-it-yourself options became easier to use in recent years, critics have warned that they are increasingly used by those hoping to circumvent background checks for firearm purchases — leaving authorities with no way to trace weapons increasingly linked to criminal activity.
Now, federal law enforcement appears to be fighting back against at least one supplier of these so-called “ghost guns.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last week raided a Nevada company allegedly linked to hundreds of crimes across the U.S. in 2019 alone — including robbery, kidnapping and homicide.
Polymer80, located outside Carson City, makes a product called the "Buy Build Shoot" kit, which includes everything needed to assemble a working firearm in just a few hours. The Reno Gazette Journal reports that ATF agents bought the kits under assumed names — with only a credit card, phone number and email — and shipped them to California.
Firearm purchases ordinarily require several forms of identification and a criminal background check, but Polymer80 only required the buyer to check boxes on its website stipulating that they were not a “fugitive from justice” or otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm.
An affidavit filed by an ATF agent said the company was suspected of manufacturing and selling illegal firearms, failing to conduct background checks, shipping firearms to customers in different states, and failing to properly pay taxes.
No arrests have been made in connection with the raid.
Polymer80 said on social media that it is cooperating with authorities and that it would defend the rights of its customers to build firearms in their homes. The ATF, however, determined that the kits themselves met the legal definition of a firearm, CNN reports. California earlier this year sued the Trump administration over that designation.
The possibility of criminal investigation isn’t the only thing targeting “ghost gun” suppliers: a lawsuit filed last week by the families of victims in a 2017 California shooting seeks unspecified damages from 13 manufacturers and sellers.