3-D Printer Firearm Parts Much to do About Nothing

Published August 20, 2018

Seven states and Washington DC sued and successfully obtained a restraining order against release of plans to make firearm parts using 3D printers. The restraining order from U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle puts that plan on hold for now.  As Lasnic stated, “There is a possibility of irreparable harm because of the way these guns can be made.” 

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the ruling “a complete, total victory.” “We were asking for a nationwide temporary restraining order putting a halt to this outrageous decision by the federal government to allow these 3D downloadable guns to be available around our country and around the world. He granted that relief,” Ferguson said, at a news conference after the hearing. “That is significant.”

Predictably, most involved are Blue states  which come down against private firearm ownership whenever possible:  Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia, but Illinois has also joined in with the crusade.  

Illinois officials answer the call

Officials from Illinois called on President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday, August 1, to halt the release of blueprints for making a gun with a 3D printer.  Attorney General Lisa Madigan and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin have both signed on to efforts urging the department to reverse its July decision to drop its challenge against Texas resident Cody Wilson and his company to sell blueprints for guns on-line.

As Durbin told CNN on Tuesday, July 31, 2018: “If we have background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, we wouldn’t want to put a recipe on the Internet for someone to build one of these weapons at home.”

Durbin further signed onto a letter written by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts which urges the State Department to reconsider the settlement with Defense Distributed, while Madigan signed onto Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s letter urging the same.

It is significant that Cody Wilson, his company, Defense Distributed, and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) won a four year court battle in July, in which the Department of State agreed to pay the plaintiff’s legal expenses. The court battle goes back to 2013, when President Obama used the State Department to enforce UN rules regarding international distribution of small arms (never ratified by the Senate). Obama, along with several states are apparently confused over the distinction between free speech and hardware, notwithstanding the fact that terrorists are armed by rogue governments, not documents.

As the EFT staff attorney Kit Walsh said:

“The Supreme Court has been very clear that any speech licensing regime has to be governed by definite standards of review, judicial oversight, and prompt deadlines.” 

Further insight is given here.

What kind of threat do 3d printed firearms pose?

For one, opponents say that persons not able to purchase firearms could make their own. That said, firearms can easily be assembled from ordinary hardware. Felons are more likely to have a hacksaw than an expensive 3D printer. People can use the blueprints to manufacture plastic guns using a 3D printer. Industry experts have expressed doubts that criminals would go to the trouble, since the printers needed to make the guns can cost thousands of dollars, the guns themselves tend to disintegrate quickly and traditional firearms are easy to come by. 

So-called “Zip Guns” have been around since the invention of firearms over 600 years ago. The first firearms were hardly more than metal or bamboo tubes with a hole and a match to touch them off. Tribal craftsmen in Pakistan regularly make AK-47 rifles, even Colt .45 pistols, from old car parts, using saws, files and hammers. They not only work, but look like the real thing

Regarding gangsters, they were making guns out of water pipe and rubber bands for decades. Where were the background checks and serial numbers? Now they get AK-47’s, despite Chuck Schumer’s hysterics whenever a mass shooting happens, when in most case the absence of additional gun laws would not have changed the outcome. Anyone who thinks a plastic gun is undetectable hasn’t flown on a plane this century.

What Federal law restricts

There is no Federal law prohibiting making a firearm for personal use (with some restrictions). You just can’t sell them or give them away. You can’t, however, make an “undetectable” gun, fully automatic weapons, nor a “destructive device” like an anti-tank gun. “Detectable” is a relative term, and screening technology has advanced immeasurably since that law was passed in 1988. Under that law, a functioning firearm must contain at least 37.2 grams of metal, rendering it detectable when passing through a TSA magnetometer.

Another demand is that “All parts need to be serialized”, which is completely impractical.  A modern revolver has nearly 100 parts, many of which are custom-fitted to a particular firearm. Federal Law requires only the frame of the firearm to be serialized, not each screw and spring, or even the barrel. Some parts are made to be replaceable, for maintenance, repair and customization. The most popular handguns have plastic frames (e.g., Glock) with no metal parts at all. They will not function as a firearm until fitted with a barrel, and other metal components. The plastic frames bear a permanent serial number, however. Ill-worded laws to this effect would ban things like replacement parts, which make shooting more reliable or accurate, without changing the basic mode of operation.

The only workable 3D prints so far are magazines, and even they don’t hold up long. Pistol cartridges produce at least 12,000 psi, well beyond the strength of plastic, or low alloy steel. The anti-gun factions are once again crying “WOLF!” without a rational basis for doing so.

Has President Trump misspoken?

President Trump weighed in on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, perhaps giving gun control advocates hope, when he questioned whether his administration should have agreed to allow the plans to be posted online.

“I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public,” he said via Twitter. “Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Notice that the President’s statement includes “sold,” which is already subject to Federal regulation.                

No one has been assaulted with a 3D gun.  Only the most foolhardy criminal would use something likely to explode the first time it was used, when there are so many alternatives already available. It’s not enough to disarm citizens. You must criminalize their thoughts and words too.

[Originally Published at Illinois Review]