Congressman Calls for ‘Renewed’ Ban on 3D Printed “Wiki Weapons”

It was utterly predictable. As soon as one of the members of the U.S. Congress heard about these new 3D printed firearms (the ones thaat don’t even work particularly well… yet) they got their knickers all in a twist and started looking for ways to legislate them out of existence. And as it turns out, there’s already a law on the books that outlaws plastic guns that is set to expire, which Democrat Steve Israel is now pushing to renew. But, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I don’t think that law does what he thinks it does. . .

From MeetThe112th.com:

Rep. Steve Israel on Friday urged lawmakers to renew a federal ban on plastic guns that can evade detection at airports, including weapons made partially with three dimensional printers right out of “Star Trek,” the congressman said.

Israel (D-Huntington) said a group of young men recently built and fired six shots from a “Wiki Weapon” — an AR-15 assault rifle partially assembled with parts from a 3-D printer, Israel said.

“It is just a matter of time before these three-dimensional printers will be able to replicate an entire gun,” Israel said at a news conference at the security checkpoint at Long Island MacArthur Airport. “And that firearm will be able to be brought through this security line, through the metal detector, and because there will be no metal to be detected, firearms will be brought on planes without anyone’s knowledge.”

The law in question is the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, which makes it illegal to manufacture a firearm that can’t be detected by metal detectors. Which makes sense, since all the security theater surrounding airports these days would be useless if weapons were undetectable. Then again, Steve Wozniak still gets on airplanes with his razor sharp ceramic business cards.

The more intelligent among you might be thinking “hey, if this law is on the books, then how does Glock get away with it?” And the reason is that while the frame of the handgun is technically the “firearm” of a Glock, the law simply states that the grip, stock, and magazine of the firearm must be removed (if possible) before examination, leaving the barrel and slide in place. So the lovely large and metallic slide and barrel set off the metal detectors to the appropriate level and all is well with the world.

3D Printed AR-15 lower receivers fall under this same umbrella. As much as Rep. Israel would love to outlaw these new and uncontrollable (in the gun control sense) guns, they would still be legal under the re-implemented UFA since the barrel and other operating parts still need to be made out of metal — not to mention the trigger components and other operating gubbins of the lower receiver. And for those of you thinking that the law could be changed to apply to polymer firearms, just remember how popular Glock, S&W M&P, Springfield XD and others have become recently and how much money they’re pumping into the economy. If they tried they would have one hell of a fight on their hands.

Need we remind him that Cavalry Arms has been producing an all polymer AR-15 lower for years now, all legally? And that this law has done nothing to impede those all-polymer lowers from being sold?

But he does have a point about proliferation, which is exactly the goal of the founder of Defense Distributed — the organization working on the WikiWeapon project. I interviewed Cody a while back, and here’s his point of view:

The goal is not to get guns into as many hands as possible, the goal is simply to provide access. The goal is to say, ‘in this world, in the world we want to create, anyone who wants access to a firearm can have access. Because we believe that is a right that no one should be allowed to infringe. Especially political actors.

The ability to print an AR-15 lower receiver in your own home does have some fascinating implications, and the legal battle over this is only beginning. But as for Rep. Israel’s plans to keep these new items out of the hands of American citizens through legislation, I get the feeling that its going to be as successful as keeping pirated movies off the internet.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

37 Responses to Congressman Calls for ‘Renewed’ Ban on 3D Printed “Wiki Weapons”

  1. avatarNew Chris says:

    “Rep. Steve Israel on Friday urged lawmakers to renew a federal ban on plastic guns that can evade detection at airports”

    OK let’s also ban cyborg cops, digital radio killers, undead super soldiers, ray guns, and lots of other made up stuff we’ve seen in movies… just make sure we don’t pass a budget or anything.

  2. avatarMilsurp Collector says:

    Let’s pretend this bill gets rejuvenated and 3D printed lowers (and 3D printers to up the ante) get flat out banned. I bet you all dollars to donuts 3D printed lowers, whole guns, everything will still be floating around the markets of illicit goods. Sometimes I really scratch my head and wonder just what kind of a god complex these politicians have. Do they honestly think that everyone outside the ivory tower wouldn’t dare break the law and that silly little bills like this will just magically make things disappear? What utter nonsense.

  3. avatarDavid W. says:

    Someone should carve a lower out of wood and see if he bans trees.

  4. avatarjoe says:

    This Steve Israel guy is making it very difficult to keep laughing at my Zionist conspiracy friends. Stop giving them ammunition!

  5. avatarMr. Grimm says:

    I can smell the dumb off this guy through my screen. Do you suppose that no one in his office knows that guns have to have metal in them, or the one guy that does just lets him sound stupid?

  6. avatarwhomever says:

    “Someone should carve a lower out of wood…”

    Been done: http://www.weaponeer.net/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=8035&PN=1&TPN=1

    From plastic cutting boards: http://www.weaponeer.net/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=8035&PN=2&TPN=3

    I confess I don’t get the hoopla about 3D printers. CNC milling machines aren’t new, and hobby grade CNC mills aren’t any more expensive than hobby grade 3D printers.

    You don’t even need CNC equipment – look at the machinery Browning used in the 1800′s.

    • avatarDavid W. says:

      Holy crap I was kidding…

      Omg someone should make a AR lower out of clay. The type you can fire to make it strong. With the glazing? So its just basically ceramic?

      Super glued (or welded) together sheets of pop cans?

      Brazed together once fired brass casings?

      The options seem unlimited. If I knew more about AR15s I could probably think of more.

    • avatarAdam says:

      Why even bother with CNC equipment? With a block of paraffin wax, a knife, and some plaster of Paris and sand, you can carve up some nice investment casting moulds for whatever component (frame, slide, etc.) you fancy. I’m doing some homebrew investment castings (aluminum) to replace broken banister hangers in my home, using a perlite and waterglass-lined pail as a foundry. I’m sure a clever fellow could do this for gun parts, especially with, say, a plastic cap revolver as a prototype. And anyone who passed highschool chemistry can cook up lead styphnate and nitrocellulose for ammo.

      Right now, some illiterate, salwar kameez-clad Pashtun is squatting on a mud floor in Waziristan, and finishing up a nice AK-47 clone. High-quality zip guns are made the world over. The problem is that most progressives and statist gun control advocates are so technically retarded that they can’t use a screwdriver, and hence think that only Gun Gnomes and Firearms Faeries in magical U.S. factories make weapons.

  7. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Every time we think we’ve seen a new pinnacle of stupidity out of Congress… some moron who a bunch of even bigger morons elected goes and exceeds all expectations.

  8. avatarBLAMMO says:

    I don’t see a problem unless they can shoot Teflon-coated cop-killer bullets.

  9. avatarJSIII says:

    Someone watched too much die hard 2… Plastic guns do show up on x ray. Maybe you could get a stripped polymer lower through airport security but what would be the harm behind that without an upper?

    • avatarAccur81 says:

      If they can detect boobies with the body scanner, than a partially plastic AR lower would obviously be visible. In fact, a good AR lower is more attractive than some – ah, nevermind

  10. avatarsanchanim says:

    STUPID.. Yup that about sums up this guy… He has been watching to much TV.
    Honestly folks, like someone else mentioned. The lower which is what is regulated can be built at home. You can order an AR blank for about $15.00.
    You need to mill the mag cartridge hole, trigger slot, and the hardest part is the buffer tube tread, but beyond that it is easy… A small mill at home like a Bear can be had for about $500. Sure you can’t sell them to anyone but you can supply yourself with a few hundred for your own use. Then you can make your own uppers, or buy them along with the barrels etc.
    This is what happens with idiots try to legislate something they don’t have any knowledge about.

  11. avatarBad Matt says:

    Nice priorities. This country is spending itself to death and what’s the BFD for this politician – guns made from 3d printers. Next I suppose he’ll tackle bullets made from 3d printers and call it a term.

  12. avatarWLCE says:

    jesus christ, they do realize anything plastic or polymer will show up on this generation of x-ray machines (and certainly in the 1990s when that stupid die hard 2 movie came out), dont they?

    a congressman….go figure.

    we certainly arent led by the best and brightest.

  13. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Before saying it will be carried right through airport security why not just do the same thing that security guy (forgot his name) did with a Glock during the same exact hype over them.

    Security sensors and sniffers and not to mention the rectal exams from TSA Nazis… stop saying the gun will make it past security, back your words and try it. Then when your in jail, oh wait your a politician.

  14. avatarGyufygy says:

    I think a gunsmith with an FFL or whatever else you need to legally manufacture a firearm for sale should make as much of an AR using a 3D printer as they can. Upper, lower, barrel, bolt carrier group, everything that one can physically crank out. Have every legality worked out, everything above board. Use an absolute minimum of parts that are not 3D printed. Hell, for any that can’t be printed, use plastic versions anyway.

    Then record what happens when you fire an actual plastic gun that could “slip through” a metal detector. Preferably from behind cover. Then send such a video to every single Congressperson. Perhaps the meltdown/explosion will finally end the question of “plastic guns”.

  15. avatarJC says:

    My favorite quote about this bill from his .gov website says, “In New York State alone, of the 774 murders that occurred in 2011, more than 57 percent were committed with a firearm, and of the 8,496 robberies in the state in 2011, 2,516 were committed with a firearm. As a state with some of the toughest gun laws, it’s plausible to believe that, if guns were more freely available, these statistics would probably be much worse.”
    Or maybe if guns were more freely available, citizens could protect themselves.

  16. avatarDerek says:

    How do you ban something that doesn’t exist?

  17. avatarDirk Diggler says:

    can someone make one with a “little thingy that goes up”, too? I don’t want Rep. McCarthy or Sens. Feinstein and Boxer to feel left out . . . .

  18. avatarPeter says:

    So, some day in the future, you will be able to print a 3-D firearm and ammo at home?
    We need to do something about this now!

    Sounds like someone has been watching too much bad Sci-Fi.

  19. avatarGreg Camp says:

    Two questions:

    1. Why do voters keep electing idiots?

    2. How do we change this situation?

  20. avatarAnon says:

    THEY CAN HAVE MY CAD SOFTWARE WHEN THEY PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!!!

  21. avatarokto says:

    The thing about outlawing making things at home is, well, my home is opaque to light and doesn’t have any cops in it.

  22. avatarKoolhed says:

    This clueless congresscritter (Israel) isn’t really that clueless, he just really, REALLY likes his political position.

    The only reason ANY politician does ANYTHING is to get re-elected. Around election time, Stevie will sternly point out to his constituents that “back in 2012, I proposed tough new laws against “cyber weapons.”

    The assembled simpletons will applaud and write checks and will soon vote Stevie back in office.

    Works the same way, every year, from coast to coast.

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