The Portland Police Department deleted a Facebook post about “ghost guns” on Monday after it was criticized by people who said it condemned the possession of legal homemade guns.
Officers encountered a man with a homemade firearm on Feb. 15. The gun had a suppressor and had been made using parts from Polymer80, a Nevada company that is the nation’s largest manufacturer of homemade gun components in the U.S.
The post was made at around 8:30 a.m. but it was deleted less than an hour later and contained few details about the encounter. Several commenters criticized it during the short time it was up, saying that it lacked context and could be interpreted as an attack on homemade guns.
The post reflected increasing worries about homemade firearms from law enforcement agencies. Many of them argue the guns are easily getting into the hands of people otherwise prohibited from buying firearms and that crimes committed with these types of guns, which usually do not have serial numbers, are harder to solve.
Last Tuesday’s incident involved a passenger of a vehicle who dropped a homemade gun as he fled a traffic stop, Portland police spokesperson David Singer said. That person is still at large and has not been identified.
Asked if the department had seen more homemade guns recently, Singer said he didn’t have any data on how commonly officers encountered the weapons. All of the same prohibitions on traditionally made firearms apply to homemade guns in Maine, with restrictions based on age and felony convictions, among other factors.
While Monday’s post was not explicitly political, the department has advocated for gun-control measures in the past. Former chief Michael Sauschuck, who now serves as commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety under Gov. Janet Mills, campaigned for an expansion of background checks while leading the city department.
That the post didn’t include enough information was “evidenced” by the replies, Singer said. He said earlier Monday that department leaders would be reviewing a new post that included more details. Later, he said a decision was made not to post an updated version.
The post noted that the firearms from Polymer80 do not generally have serial numbers and are referred to as “ghost guns” because of it. Multiple attempts for comment from the company were not answered on Monday.
Using “ghost guns” to refer to homemade firearms has been criticized by gun-rights activists, who see it as a politically charged and pejorative phrase for something that is not illegal.
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun rights advocacy group, gave Maine an F rating in a national set of rankings released on Thursday, citing its lack of regulations including the ability for private sellers to sell firearms without conducting a background check.
Mills backed gun-control policies including expanded background checks during her 2018 primary campaign, but she warned fellow Democrats in the Legislature from advancing such policies in her first days in office after Maine rejected a background check referendum in 2016.
President Joe Biden said earlier this month that his administration would “go after” homemade firearms amid a surge in police departments finding them at crime scenes.