By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Recently, a new dimension was added to the gun debate: 3D printed guns. Yes, I said “printed” guns. The development was started by Defense Distributed (DD), an online company created for the sole purpose of posting gun diagrams online and making them available for anyone to make with a 3D printer. 3D printers work by molding almost any item out of different hard plastics. The company made headlines recently for posting step-by-step instructions for the “The Liberator”, an entirely plastic gun that can fire one lethal bullet a few meters with accuracy. Again, this is a workable gun, made from plastic, on a 3D printer. And in case you’re wondering, you can buy a semi-assembled 3D printer between $300 to $500,000. For those interested in doing it yourself, although a lot of work, you could build your own for far less.
In 2012, the company put the instructions for making the gun online and the Obama administration State Department advised them to take it down. The company complied, but then sued. In July, the Trump administration State Department settled the case, allowing the company to post the blueprints to make the guns online.
Almost immediately, eight state Attorney’s General sued the State Department. Another twenty sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking them to stop the posting from moving forward. Wisconsin’s Attorney General Brad Schimel was not a part of the lawsuit or signed onto the letter.
These plastic guns are untraceable, undetectable and lethal. They could be printed by anyone, wouldn’t have serial numbers, could be made in nearly limitless quantities and then given to anyone. For clarity, we have had laws on the books for over 30 years that makes it illegal to make lethal plastic guns, but there is no law that prohibited publishing the directions for how to make one. Understanding the many questions associated with making these online instructions available, three state courts stopped the blueprints from being posted online and a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the government from allowing it as well. There is another hearing scheduled for August 10, to review the issue. Proponents argue that the online gun printing instructions are protected under both the 1st and 2nd amendment. Defense Distributed founder, Cody Wilson is a self-proclaimed radical, with an alarming history of comments that include “anarchy is order” and “chaos begets freedom”.
In the meantime, Democratic members of Congress have introduced bills that would make it illegal to publish these instructions online and that would require that at least part of the gun be metal. But we need to understand this, the cat is already out of the bag. The 3D gun instructions have already been posted online and downloaded before the Obama administration and the courts stepped in most recently. Once again, we find ourselves here. Our laws must catch up to technology.