There are a ton of media outlets reporting that Philadelphia has passed a ban on the manufacture of firearms using a 3D printer within city limits, but according to the city’s website the bill is still pending. It seems that the source of all of the stories is a PhillyMag article from the 21st, which I have yet to see confirmed by any other news entity and seems a tad strange. Needless to say, Moms Demand Action is already trumpeting this “win” on their Twitter feed, nevermind that the bill may not have actually passed yet. Minor details and all. Anyway, assuming the bill passes, Philadelphia will indeed be the first city to try and legislate restrictions on what people can and cannot do with their 3D printer, which is kinda like passing a law making it illegal to watch porn on the internet . . .
Needless to say, there are all sorts of issues with such legislation. First and foremost: how the hell do you enforce such a thing? Will they now require 3D printers to be registered? How about requiring a background check before you can get your MakerBot? Or perhaps you will need a tax stamp from the ATF? The beauty of a personal 3D printer is that it’s yours, and you can use it to do whatever you want in the privacy of your own home, and the government has no way of knowing that it even exists. The only way this law could ever possibly be used is as an add-on when someone breaks some other law, and given how the citizens of Philadelphia feel about the prohibition against marijuana and other illegal narcotics I’m sure these laws will be just as effective.
Did I say effective? I meant legislative circle-jerk.
Second,this law not only makes it illegal to print a complete gun, but any gun part. So if I’m trying to prototype a new safety design for my existing firearm and turn to my 3D printer, I have just committed a crime. But where does it stop? If I print a spring, it could be used for some other project, or it could be for a magazine. There are a ton of common parts that many different machines use, guns included, and this seems like a blank check for the police to arrest anyone with a 3D printer who they don’t like. This was the issue with the 3D printer ban that was proposed in California — it was so broad as to be ridiculous — and it doesn’t seem to have been solved.
Finally, there’s a small problem with Philadelphia passing gun laws. The state of Pennsylvania’s laws supersede local codes, as outlined below:
§ 6120. Limitation on the regulation of firearms and ammunition.
(a) General rule.–No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.
(a.1) No right of action.–
(1) No political subdivision may bring or maintain an action at law or in equity against any firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer for damages, abatement, injunctive relief or any other relief or remedy resulting from or relating to either the lawful design or manufacture of firearms or ammunition or the lawful marketing or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public.
(2) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a political subdivision from bringing or maintaining an action against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer or dealer for breach of contract or warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by the political subdivision.
(b) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:
“Dealer.” The term shall include any person engaged in the business of selling at wholesale or retail a firearm or ammunition.
“Firearms.” This term shall have the meaning given to it in section 5515 (relating to prohibiting of paramilitary training) but shall not include air rifles as that term is defined in section 6304 (relating to sale and use of air rifles).
“Political subdivision.” The term shall include any home rule charter municipality, county, city, borough, incorporated town, township or school district.
(Oct. 18, 1974, P.L.768, No.260, eff. imd.; Dec. 19, 1988, P.L.1275, No.158, eff. 180 days; Oct. 4, 1994, P.L.571, No.84, eff. 60 days; Dec. 15, 1999, P.L.915, No.59, eff. imd.)
However, Philadelphia has typically been given more leeway in terms of local laws due to its size. For example, their concealed and open carry laws are different from the rest of the state. However, it’s possible that this new law might be over the boundary of what they can pass and come under scrutiny from the state AG.
We’ll keep an eye on the situation, but for now it looks like the communal pants browning by gun control advocates continues every time they think of Cody Wilson’s little invention.