Obviously, we’re not quite at a point where people are going to be printing guns out for themselves on a massive scale. At this point, for the average citizen, just buying a regular gun is probably both cheaper and easier. Even so, this is a preview of a day when 3D printers might be a not-unusual appliance in your average household, and guns might be one of the things that appliance can produce on demand rendering gun control laws, for the most part, moot.
But don’t worry, Congress already has legislation aimed at outlawing the practice courtesy of Rep. Steve Israel:
Melville, NY—Today, following news of a working plastic gun made almost entirely on a 3D printer, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) renewed his call for passage of his recently-introduced Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act that extends the ban on plastic firearms and includes homemade, plastic high-capacity magazines and receivers. The existing ban on plastic guns expires this year and does not clearly cover these major components. On Friday, Defense Distributed, a group of homemade gun enthusiasts, premiered a plastic firearm with only one small necessary metal part, a single nail used as the firing pin.
Rep. Israel said, “Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser. When I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology appears to be upon us, we need to act now to extend the ban on plastic firearms.”
The Defense Distributed project circumvents the current Undetectable Firearms Act by including an extraneous block of metal in the gun, making the firearm detectable by metal detector. However, those who wish to smuggle guns onto planes and into high security areas will soon be able to download the digital blueprints from Defense Distributed’s website and forgo the extraneous metal, producing guns completely undetectable by metal detector.
The revamped Undetectable Firearms Act that Rep. Israel wrote makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm, receiver, or magazine that is homemade and not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an x-ray machine. The reauthorization would extend the life of the bill for another 10 years from the date of enactment.
“The legislation (PDF) that Rep. Israel proposes…would establish a ‘security exemplar’ as a standard that all homemade firearms would have to meet,” writes J.D. Tuccille for Reason. “Any weapon less detectable would be illegal.”
It’s hard to imagine how the federal government could ever hope to enforce something like that. They may be able to stop you if you try to bring your gun to the airport. They may be able to have law enforcement confiscate your weapons, and charge you with a crime, if you’re caught in possession. But with the ability to manufacture quickly becoming democratized, what good will any of that really do?
In fact, the entire legal premise of federal gun control is based on the idea that guns are interstate commerce. But how are guns interstate commerce when you can print one in your kitchen? Perhaps the courts will find a way – they usually can – but that still doesn’t mean the laws would be effective.
Our government may just have to live with the fact that government control of guns may be quickly becoming a thing of the past.