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. . .
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.