Federal agents on Thursday raided one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of ghost-gun parts, a sign that federal law enforcement is cracking down on kits that allow people to make weapons at home.
The raid target, Nevada-based Polymer80, is suspected of illegally manufacturing and distributing firearms, failing to pay taxes, shipping guns across state lines and failing to conduct background investigations, according to an application for a search warrant unsealed Thursday after the raid took place.
The probe focuses on Polymer80’s “Buy Build Shoot Kit,” which includes the parts to build a “ghost” handgun. The kit, which Polymer80 sells online, meets the definition of a firearm, ATF investigators determined according to the warrant application. That means it would have to be stamped with a serial number and couldn’t be sold to consumers who haven’t first passed a background check.
Polymer80 chief executive David Borges didn’t return phone calls or texts seeking comment Thursday evening.
Agents seized records and other evidence in Thursday’s raid in Dayton, close to Carson City, a law-enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said. No Polymer80 employees were arrested and no charges have been filed.
The raid by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives comes after ghost guns have been used more frequently in high-profile attacks. In September, two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies were shot while sitting in their patrol vehicle by a man using a handgun built from Polymer80 parts, according to the documents. Last year, a 16-year-old killed two fellow students and wounded three others at Saugus High School in Southern California with a homemade handgun.
Thursday’s raid is the most significant action against a ghost-gun company to date, according to the law-enforcement officials, and suggests the federal government is scrutinizing the growing industry.
Homemade ghost guns have grown in popularity in recent years and can’t be traced in criminal investigations because they lack serial numbers. Law-enforcement officials say they appeal to people who can’t pass background checks.
When people buy fully made guns from dealers, the weapons have serial numbers and purchasers must go through a background check.
Approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered by law e nforcement in 2019, according to the warrant application. As part of the investigation, the ATF identified multiple Polymer80 customers who were prohibited from buying guns because of prior criminal convictions.
The starting point for building a ghost gun is an “unfinished receiver,” a metal or polymer piece that houses the firing mechanism. It can be purchased without a background check, because the ATF doesn’t classify the part as a firearm. Buyers can finish the receiver with a drill press or a computerized metal-cutting machine and then add the remaining pieces to complete the gun.
The ATF previously gave Polymer80 permission to sell unfinished receivers. But the Buy Build Shoot Kits, which are advertised as having “all the necessary components to build a complete…pistol” weren’t submitted to the agency for approval, according to the application for the search warrant. These kits can be “assembled into fully functional firearms in a matter of minutes,” the warrant application says.
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