Early this morning my left leaning brother in law asked a simple question via text message; “I am wondering your opinion on the 3-D printable guns? As usual seems like multiple issues at play.” I didn’t answer him right away. Instead I decided to draft my thoughts in this post, mainly because I knew it was a lengthy discussion. Herein I will posit all the concerns of which I can conceive and the answers to each.
• 3D printing technology being used to make guns is not protected by the constitution.
I think this one could be the most debated because people constantly argue over the 2nd amendment and what arms are covered and which aren’t. To a purist like me, all ares are covered. But for the sake of argument we can say that, due to the protection of small arms in general, the constitution protects more than the common musket of the time and is unaffected by advancing technology. Further, manufacturers such as Coonan and Hudson have been 3D printing firearms for years (at least in the prototype stages). So the sudden ability to print a small single shot weapon by the consumer should not suddenly change legal scrutiny.
• 3D printing of guns is wrong because they aren’t trackable, you can’t just make a gun!
Actually, you can. The law states you can build your own firearm without government oversight so long as you aren’t selling the weapon. It’s perfectly legal to build a gun yourself. In some areas, it is being legally explored whether the weapon may be sold without a serial number so long as it remains with the state of it’s manufacturing. In other words, if it doesn’t cross state lines, it isn’t interstate commerce and thus not subject to federal regulation. (Still being decided.)
This law of self manufacturing is the reason for companies like Polymer 80. They sell receivers and frames (the normally serialized portion of a firearm) in an unfinished state with instructions on how to finish the build with a simple drill press. They are unserialized and sold over the counter, you simply finish the part and buy the necessary gun parts to build the weapon you want. This, again, has been happening for years.
So building your own gun has existed forever and has been very easy for years.
As for tracking of guns, that’s illegal. The government is not allowed to keep a database of gun ownership. After each background check the paperwork is filed away in a box and stored in a warehouse with no easy way to access the information. This in itself is wrong as technically the records should be destroyed by law.
• 3D printing a gun is too inexpensive and makes guns too accessible
Buying a quality 3D printer would not be inexpensive. If you already have access to one, the material involved would likely cost more than a budget Hi-Point pistol which would be a far more effective and efficient weapon than a single shot you printed. Unless your goal is novelty cost isn’t an issue.
• But now the wrong people can get guns
The same people that would fail a background check could still buy a 80% frame or receiver online and complete a gun that is far more effective such as a Glock or AR 15 variant. Why would we care about them getting a small caliber single shot pistol? They can do far more damage through other sources. Also, the possession of these firearms by such individuals is still illegal. Don’t laws stop criminals from bad actions?
• This 3D printed gun is plastic and would be undetected by magnetometers.
Ah yes that is true. This little piece of plastic that fires a small caliber round would be undetectable. But the metal cartridges it fires are not. So you still have to get the bullets through security. The plastic gun may hide but it isn’t going to do much without ammunition.
So the 3D printed gun really doesn’t change anything. If that’s the case, why is it such a big news issue? Because it’s a boogieman being used by anti-gun groups to fan the flames. They use the uninformed to push an agenda.