Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell showcased what they cite as a desperate need to stop the flow of ghost guns to the Big Apple in dramatic fashion Wednesday afternoon.
A lengthy table was erected inside police headquarters on May 11 that displayed 131 ghost guns, just a modicum of what has been recovered, police say. Beside the ghost guns on exhibit, over the past couple years additional parts and kits that could build almost 200 guns have also been recovered. These items are being ordered and sold in large numbers via the internet and on the streets.
The officials made a plea to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to revoke the federal firearms license of Polymer80, who has reportedly been the largest supplier of ghost guns with 90s of the firearms recovered by NYPD this year including Polymer80 parts.
According to Inspector Courtney Nilan, commanding officer of the field intelligence program, Polymer80 is known for its lowest-priced and easily put together kits and parts–leading mass purchasing and selling of illegal ghost guns in New York City and across the nation.
“Individuals are purchasing them to sell them on the streets and who are as we would say firearms dealers. But what we’re also seeing, and this is something that scares us, is sometimes people are arrested with these firearms, younger people are arrested with these firearms, they don’t even know that they are per say ghost guns, which means that these guns are in circulation on the streets and in circulations on the streets in greater frequency than we’ve seen before,” Nilan said.
Commissioner Sewell along with Mayor Adams shared the ire for what they say is not an equal balance of public safety and criminal justice, citing Tuesday night’s police-involved shooting in the Bronx as an example.
“Within the last several years the New York City Police Department has entered a new phase in our fight against illegal guns. But there are two facets to this. The first is what we saw last night in the officer-involved shooting in the Bronx. A man with a criminal history. Most recently caught jumping a subway turnstile while carrying a firearm. He was arrested for carrying that firearm. He was already on probation for a prior 2016 Robbery conviction indicted by a grand jury and still no bail was set. And then in December of 2021, five months ago, he pleaded guilty to possession of that illegal gun, but was still allowed to walk the streets while he awaited sentencing and then last night,” Sewell said.
“We can’t stand for these types of dangerous and highly avoidable confrontations with repeat offenders who are given every leeway by the criminal justice system. We need to right these wrongs. Second, on top of the steady spread of traditionally manufactured and sold firearms. We are now dealing with what are known as ghost guns,” she added.
According to the NYPD, there has been a 314% increase of ghost guns recovered this year alone, which includes 150 ghost firearms within the first four months of 2022. While investigative efforts have increased as well as collaboration with law enforcement partners at both the local state and federal level to arrest retailers and sellers before ghost guns are sold on the streets, Sewell shared that this is just not enough to combat this rapidly growing issue. She said it is both an issue of seizing these weapons and holding the individuals purchasing and using them accountable.
“But it’s not enough because the gun itself does not have the capacity to commit a crime,” Sewell said, underscoring why Polymer80 should have its federal firearm license revoked.
While the federal government created an AUG. 24 mandate deadline for manufacturers to put serial numbers and stamps on any gun part being sold, Sewell fears this will leave New York City vulnerable for the summer.
Pointing at an assault rifle, Mayor Adams asked a member of the firearms unit to hold up the weapon. “This is not a toy,” Adams began, stating that of the 131 weapons on display the most commonly found on New York City streets have been 9mm and 38 caliber pistols, but with the dawn of ghost guns larger more powerful firearms are being assembled and distributed.
Adams then admonished those who are not in line with his and the NYPD’s public safety measures, stating that the NYPD is alone in this effort. He cited the crack and heroin epidemic of the 1980s and how New Yorkers rallied behind the police to stop crime but that now this is not the case.
Adams then proceeded to use yesterday’s shooting as a prime example of the criminal justice system failing when repeat offenders are out of the streets due to legal loopholes, which foil the efforts his administration and the NYPD put forward.
According to the NYPD, Rameek Smith, the alleged suspect in May 10’s police-involved shooting in the Bronx was arrested while jumping a subway turnstile and was found to be in possession of a loaded weapon. However, Adams underscored that the charges brought against Smith were reduced because the bullets were inoperable (something Adams believes Smith wouldn’t have known until he tried to use the weapon.
“Because it was inoperable he’s no longer carried with a higher crime. He’s carried with a lower crime that’s not eligible for bail. He has made up his mind he was going to wreak havoc on our city and so the partnership we were building today is to revoke the Federal Firearms License of Polymer80. Commissioner hidden dead on the bad guys are outpacing us. We are too slow to identify and correct the loopholes and violence. The online retailers supplying the vast majority of ghost guns recovered from crime scenes, Polymer80 and their ghost guns,” Adams said.
Prior to the press conference, the Legal Aid Society, representatives for Smith, released a statement admonishing Adams for blaming bail reform in a statement adding that by continuously painting reform as a preponderance of causing crime he is diminishing the value of these laws. amNewYork Metro asked the mayor how he felt about this statement to which he responded:
“We have to be real careful because anyone who was at the hospital last night where I was with that injured heroic officer. I didn’t say anything about bail reform. People want to hold on to this term bail before, I wish it was just that simple. I must have said it over and over again. There are many rivers that feed the sea of violence. One of those rivers is what I just mentioned that gun and a bullet. If we move away from just speaking and move to a place of listening, I think we can see that we’re both saying the same thing. And it was if it was just bail reform, that would be an easy fix. It’s far more than that. So, I say to the legal aid, come to the table with me and hear what I’m saying and you will see how we agreed on the same things. So yesterday wasn’t about critique of a part of the problems that we’re having. It’s all of those rivers,” Adams said.
Governor Kathy Hochul also lended her support to Mayor Adams and the NYPD’s effort to combat ghost guns and gun violence by pushing for the Polymer80 to have their license revoked.
“I fully support the call from Mayor Adams, NYPD Commissioner Sewell, and the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund to revoke the federal firearms license of Polymer80 the largest source of ghost guns used in crimes. Gun violence is a public health and public safety crisis, and all levels of government must continue working together on aggressive action to crack down on the distribution and possession of dangerous weapons,” Hochul said in a statement.