By Dhar Law, LLP
ARE 3D PRINTED PLASTIC GUNS LEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES?
While plastic guns were once the subject of science-fiction novels, today, officials and lawmakers have been forced to debate the reality that the people now have access to technology that gives them the ability to print firearms from the convenience of their own home.
In July, a federal judge sided with states that argued 3D gun plans available online could potentially help criminals and terrorists manufacture deadly and untraceable weapons. Although Judge Robert Lasnik’s ruling didn’t order the 3D plans to be removed from online, it did temporarily block a previous settlement that was reached with Defense Distributed, a Texas-based gun rights organization, and the federal government that made it legal for 3D printable gun plans to be posted online.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “This is a nationwide ban. … It takes us back to a period of time before the federal government flipped on their policy regarding these 3D ghost guns.”
Below we explain what you need to know about 3D printed plastic guns.
WHAT IS A 3D-PRINTED GUN?
3D guns are firearms that have been assembled from ABS plastic parts made with a 3D printer. ABS plastic is the same material used to make Legos. Defense Distributed had planned to allow people to download plans for how to build a number of 3D guns, including the controversial AR-15-style rifle. To make the weapon, the 3D printer follows the shape of the gun model by stacking layer upon layer of plastic or other material.
IS IT HARD TO PRINT A PLASTIC GUN?
Mitch Free, chairman & CEO of the 3D printing company ZYCI CNC Machining, said “Even machinists with average skills are able to produce 3D printed firearms.” According to him, 3D printing is more accessible today because of improved software and some slight reductions in the cost of 3D scanners and fabrication tools.
WHY ARE PEOPLE AGAINST 3D-PRINTED GUNS?
Critics of these firearms fear they could create security oversights because the guns are untraceable and would be invisible to metal detectors. Critics also fear this technology makes it too easy for terrorists and people who can’t pass criminal background checks to get a hold of guns.
HOW DID THE GOVERNMENT GET INVOLVED?
After Defense Distributed posted its instructions for making a “Liberator” plastic gun in 2013, the US State Department issued a three-page cease-and-desist letter to the organization’s founder, Cody Wilson. The letter demanded that the gun activist group remove the plans from its website. The complaint accused Wilson of potentially breaching International Traffic in Arms Regulations. These laws regulate the export of defense materials, services, and technical data. The essence of the government’s argument was that someone in another country that the United States is prohibited from selling weapons to could download the material and make the guns themselves.
WHAT DO LAWMAKERS SAY ABOUT THE ISSUE?
In December 2013, lawmakers extended a federal law that requires all guns to be detectable by metal screening machines for another 10 years. Guns that don’t have enough metal parts to trigger screening machines in places like airports and courthouses are prohibited under this law. To get around this restriction, plastic gun designs added a removable metal block, which isn’t needed to make the firearm functional. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, introduced a bill in June to the Senate that would amend the Undetectable Firearms Act. This proposed amendment would prohibit firearms that do not have a major component that can be detected by airport security screening.
The issue of 3D printed guns will make its way back to court on August 10, where both sides will have the opportunity to argue whether or not a preliminary injunction is needed.
CONSULT WITH A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER IN BOSTON
At Dhar Law, LLP, our legal team knows that being charged with a criminal offense is a serious matter, which is why our professionals are here to help guide you through your case. Weapons crimes cases can be especially scary, particularly if you have been accused of using a weapon to commit a crime. Our lawyers will build a strong legal strategy and we will aggressively pursue the justice you deserve. Let us put our skills and experience to work for you today.
Contact our Boston criminal defense attorney to schedule a consultation today. We are available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.