3D-printed guns present a major safety hazard through their lack of serial numbers and plastic parts.
Due to the rise in availability of 3D printers, people are now able to produce firearms at a cheap cost. In 2012, a company known as Defense Distributed proposed a plan to sell blueprints on how to build plastic 3D-printed guns. While the guns are still in the development cycle, they are also being illegally produced by third parties. These guns require metal parts, such as the stock and the barrel.
The difference from regular guns is that you can easily remove the different components at will to avoid detection. However, the State Department argued that the actions of Defense Distributed were illegal under the Arms Export Control Act. The major problem with these weapons is that people can download them across the globe and not be under government supervision. Defense Distributed was then forced to shut down production of the weapon and selling of the blueprint. The blueprints have since appeared on the internet.
In 2015, with the help of the Second Amendment Foundation, Defense Distributed went on to sue the State Department under the premise of a First Amendment violation. The State Department eventually allowed the designs to be re-published to avoid losing in the courts. However, 19 U.S. states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey, are in the process of fighting this settlement for fear of these firearms being freely available to anyone with access to a 3D printer.
I agree with these states; providing access to difficult-to-trace firearms is dangerous. Such firearms lack the regulation of other firearms, and such oversight is necessary for the safety of United States citizens. The production of guns should be limited to only licensed arms dealers.
There are two major problems with these 3D-printed guns. First, by removing the steel parts, such as the firing pin, guns can be carried through airport security without setting off metal detectors. This comes into direct conflict with the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, which makes it a federal offense to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive” a firearm unable to be detected by a metal detector. While the current design sold by Defense Distributed will contain a piece of steel to meet these requirements, it could be easily removed before walking through airport security.
Second, these 3D-printed guns, commonly referred to as ghost guns, lack the serial numbers that allow guns to be tracked and monitored. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, all firearms are required by law to have a specific set of numbers that are placed on the firearm by the manufacturer. In order to import or export firearms, they are also legally required to list the city or state from which they were made. These weapons have none of the important markings that are required on other firearms. Owners of these guns would not have to go through any form of background checks that are normally required to receive a firearm.
In an argument against these weapons, Kristen Rand, the legislative director of a gun control advocacy center known as Violence Policy Center, said, “3D-printed guns represent one dimension of a larger problem of do-it-yourself homemade firearms, which is an increasing threat to public safety. It is important that policymakers act now to address this burgeoning threat before it is too late.”
Some may argue that 3D-printed weapons are no substantial threat due to the existence of easier ways for criminals to get firearms, such as theft or illegal purchases, but these guns provide another opportunity for people to get firearms not registered by the government.
While 3D-printed guns are not an extremely prevalent concern at the moment, their impact will have a large impact on the safety of citizens of the United States and all over the world. By avoiding important government supervision, these firearms are unmonitored, dangerous tools that could be acquired by anyone. If law-abiding citizens want to buy firearms, they should be required to go through licensed manufacturers and sellers. Through the use of background checks and a specific code, we can lower the risk of deadly weapons across the United States.