GHOST GUNSWhy Outlawing Ghost Guns Didn’t Stop America’s Largest Maker of Ghost Gun Parts

By Anjeanette Damon

Published 30 August 2022

Unregistered, unserialized weapons produced with Polymer80 parts have turned up at crime scenes across the country, but state-level efforts to close ghost gun loopholes continue to fall short.

As Nevada lawmakers heard public comment last year on a bill to ban ghost guns and the parts used to make them, a resident of the rural town of Dayton called into the hearing to offer his opinion. The privately made firearms are virtually untraceable because they lack a serial number and can be easily purchased online and assembled by people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to legally buy a gun.

“I do not care if this bill passes or not,” said the man, who identified himself only as Loran Kelley. “I am just informing you that we, as Americans, just will not comply with it no matter what you do.”

What he didn’t mention to the committee is that he owns a company called Polymer80, one of the country’s most prolific manufacturers of ghost gun kits and parts. His vow to defy such regulations is as much about principle as profit, even as thousands of untraceable guns bearing the P80 stamp have turned up at crime scenes from Los Angeles to Baltimore.

According to court documents, the vast majority of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement nationwide are built from Polymer80 parts. That’s why Nevada lawmakers were debating the bill: Anti-gun violence advocates saw a unique opportunity to shut down the flow of ghost gun parts to the rest of the country by going after the source.

“You can say you can’t possess an unserialized gun, but you need to be able to go up the supply chain if you want to stop this problem,” said David Pucino, deputy chief counsel for Giffords Law Center, who helped draft the Nevada legislation.

Nevada’s effort came as big city mayors across the country were beginning to grapple with an increase in crimes committed with Polymer80 guns. A handful of states had passed legislation restricting ghost guns. Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles had sued Polymer80, claiming the company was selling a product that violated their local gun control laws. And an additional four cities had sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, seeking to compel the agency to require manufacturers like Polymer80 to put serial numbers on core ghost gun components.

Advocates viewed the Nevada law as a potentially more effective tactic than the patchwork of efforts brought to bear so far.

And it almost worked.