Home Lawsuit: Ghost gun website should be accountable for selling weapon involved in fatal shooting

Lawsuit: Ghost gun website should be accountable for selling weapon involved in fatal shooting

Crystal Graham
police crime scene
(© Prathaan – stock.adobe.com)

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the estates of two 17-year-old Virginians, Calvin Van Pelt and Ersheen Elaiaiser, who were shot and killed by an 18-year-old classmate using an unserialized, self-assembled ghost gun purchased from ghost gun seller 80P Builder.

The lawsuit, announced by Everytown Law, along with the Fairfax-based Weiner, Spivey & Miller, PLC, names multiple defendants alleged to have enabled the shooting.

  • Salvo Technologies, Inc. and BUL USA, LLC, the alleged owners of the website 80P Builder – are alleged to have packaged and sold, without any kind of background check or age verification, the “complete” handgun kit that the shooter assembled into the Glock-style pistol used in the deaths.
  • Polymer80, Inc., which is alleged to create and distribute unserialized pistol frame kits to be resold and assembled into firearms. These firearms are untraceable and sold without a background check.
  • Zackary Burkard, the then-18-year-old who shot and killed Van Pelt and Elaiaiser with the pistol he had built using a Polymer80 kit.

Burkard was tried and convicted in 2022 of two counts of voluntary manslaughter.

On April 25, 2021, according to court records, Van Pelt and Elaiaiser arrived at the home of a high school classmate to settle an argument that had begun on social media. Both Van Pelt and Elaiaiser were unarmed. At the end of a fist-fight between Elaiaiser and another unarmed teenager, Burkard shot Elaiaiser in the chest and Van Pelt in the back with a Polymer80 Glock-style handgun. Both died from their injuries.

“Our lives will never be the same without Calvin,” said Vanessa Van Pelt and Michael Winfield, parents of Van Pelt. “No parent should ever go through what we have. These gun sellers should not be selling guns without background checks and putting guns in the hands of 18-year-old boys.”

“While nothing will bring back our son and brother, we want to see these companies held accountable for making deadly weapons so accessible to young people,” Mashaer Adlan and Komi Elaiaiser, parents of Elaiaiser said.

The lawsuit, filed by Weiner, Spivey & Miller, PLC, with whom Everytown Law is serving as co-counsel, alleges that:

  • 80P Builder sold Zackary Burkard a firearm-building kit online;
  • The kit contained all of the parts needed to quickly assemble a handgun;
  • 80P Builder made no effort to perform a background check, and;
  • 80P Builder made no effort to verify Burkard’s age.

As a result, the lawsuit alleges, 18-year-old Burkard was able to obtain a handgun, despite federal laws that (1) require licensed firearm sellers to conduct background checks, and (2) restrict the purchase of handguns by youths under the age of 21.

The lawsuit alleges that defendants Salvo Technologies, Inc., BUL USA, LLC and Polymer80 Inc.:

  • Intentionally structured their businesses to circumvent firearm laws;
  • Knew that their ghost gun kits would be especially attractive to people who were unauthorized to purchase handguns, such as teenagers like the shooter, and;
  • Acted with reckless indifference to the foreseeable consequences of their conduct.

The lawsuit further alleges that the shooting would not have occurred, and Elaiaiser and Van Pelt would still be alive today, were it not for the negligent, reckless and unlawful business practices of the 80P Builder Defendants and Polymer80. The lawsuit includes multiple claims, including but not limited to negligence, negligent entrustment, conspiracy and public nuisance.

The plaintiffs seek $25 million in compensatory damages.

The number of ghost guns recovered by law enforcement agencies and submitted to the ATF has skyrocketed in recent years increasing by more 1,000 percent between 2017 and 2021. Because ghost guns have no serial numbers, the ATF is able to trace less than 1 percent of these weapons to their original purchasers, according to Everytown Law.

“The shooting of Calvin and Ersheen was a horrific tragedy, and it was preventable had the gun seller taken basic steps to ensure that they were not selling ghost gun-building kits to teenagers in violation of law,” said Len Kamdang, director of litigation strategy and trials at Everytown Law. “This was not just the act of one violent and troubled teen.

“As the lawsuit alleges, reckless practices in the gun industry are responsible for placing this gun in the shooter’s hands and allowing this tragedy to occur, and this lawsuit is intended to impose accountability.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.