Well, that didn’t take long. A few days after a 3D printed gun fired a few rounds, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) has announced legislation to renew a ban on plastic guns that is set to expire in 2013. Recent reports have pointed to the new possibility of building guns at home using a 3-D printer. Right now, plastic guns are illegal under the Undetectable Firearms Act, but this law is set to expire next year. Though right now printing all of the parts to make a gun at home isn’t feasible, publically available plans can be used to print the lower receiver of a gun. The lower receiver is the part which bears the gun’s serial number and is the most federally regulated, possibly allowing criminals to circumvent a number of gun control laws.
Rep. Israel said, “Congress passed a law banning plastic guns for two decades, when they were just a movie fantasy. With the advent of 3-D printers these guns are suddenly a real possibility, but the law Congress passed is set to expire next year. We should act now to give law enforcement authorities the power to stop the development of these weapons before they are as easy to come by as a Google search. ”
The Undetectable Firearms Act that Rep. Israel is introducing makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm that is not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an x-ray machine. The reauthorization would extend the life of the bill for another 10 years from the date of enactment. However, the devil is in the details and Representative Israel doesn't say is how he hopes to accomplish his goal. Firmware locks for 3D printers? A DMCA-like takedown regime for 3D shapefiles that can be used to generate plastic firearms (or parts of plastic firearms?). A mandate on 3D printer manufacturers to somehow magically make it impossible for their products to print out gun-parts?
The challenge remains how to use the new technology without limitations while ensuring safety and intellectual property. Legislation alone will not addresses these issues.