3-D Plastic Gun Hype Misfires
Gun control advocates have one word for us: plastics. But unlike the advice given to Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate, they are advising us not of the bright future for the material, but of its mortal threat to our existence. First, we were warned that plastic straws will doom sea life and the planet. Now we are told that, while waiting for your seafood dinner, someone is likely to burst into the restaurant and kill you with a 3-D printed gun.
We don't have flying cars just yet, but we do have the ability to "print" 3-D objects from blueprints and drawings using special equipment. Hysteria greeted the announcement that one company would be allowed to publish downloadable blueprints for a gun:
Eight states are filing suit against the Trump administration over its decision to allow a Texas company to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed gun, contending the hard-to-trace plastic weapons are a boon to terrorists and criminals and threaten public safety.
The suit, filed Monday in Seattle, asks a judge to block the federal government's late-June settlement with Defense Distributed, which allowed the company to make the plans available online. Officials say that 1,000 people have already downloaded blueprints for AR-15 rifles.
"I have a question for the Trump Administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons?" Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday. "These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history." ...
People can use the blueprints to manufacture a plastic gun using a 3D printer. But gun industry experts have expressed doubt that criminals would go to the trouble, since the printers needed to make the guns are very expensive, the guns themselves tend to disintegrate quickly and traditional firearms are easy to come by.
The company, Defense Distributed, had been fighting the State Department over alleged violation of export laws if the designs were downloaded by foreign actors but won permission last month from the State Department to post schematics for homemade firearms.
This is actually a relatively old issue, and the sticky part is that the printing of 3-D firearm blueprints makes this a First Amendment as well as a Second Amendment issue:
Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, first published downloadable designs for a 3D-printed firearm in 2013. It was downloaded about 100,000 times until the State Department ordered him to cease, contending it violated federal export laws since some of the blueprints were downloaded by people outside the United States.
The State Department reversed course in late June, agreeing to allow Wilson to resume posting the blueprints. The files were published on Friday.
The company filed its own suit in Texas on Sunday, asserting that it's the victim of an "ideologically-fueled program of intimidation and harassment" that violates the company's First Amendment rights.
The company's attorney, Josh Blackman, called it an "easy case."
A few items of note here. While individuals can download blueprints and "print" a gun using expensive equipment, they cannot be sold by anyone other than a licensed firearm dealer. Without serial numbers, etc., no dealer would sell them. Purchasers would still have to undergo background checks. And the unreliable guns are not undetectable. The likelihood of some disgruntled student showing up at his old school with a plastic 3-D gun he printed in his mom's basement is extremely low:
First off, as Stephen Gutowski of The Washington Free Beacon points out, it is easy and legal to find gun blueprints online – and it should be, given that the First Amendment problems with barring the ability to post and consume such blueprints are quite serious. Gutowski also points out that the "vast majority of 3D printed gun designs are not undetectable to metal detectors," because they are made of metal, their parts manufactured by gun manufacturers. It's actually illegal to build a gun that's undetectable, Gutowski explains – the ban on creation of such weapons was extended to 2023 under the Undetectable Firearms Act.
If the guns fall apart and you need to have expensive equipment to make them, where's the "easy access"? Wouldn't criminals just obtain one of the hundreds of millions of guns, real, reusable, and relatively cheap guns, already in existence? If they want a gun, they aren't likely to buy a 3-D printer first.
Has anyone noticed that opponents of 3-D printable guns like Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who claim they are being made available to criminals and terrorists, also oppose the border wall, ICE, and deporting MS-13 gang members? They really don't want to make us safer, and banning 3-D plastic guns or the publishing of their blueprints will not do that.
With the probability of more SCOTUS and appellate judges who are constitutional originalists being confirmed, starting with Judge Kavanaugh, liberals are just desperate for a way to revive anti-gun hysteria as an issue for 2018 and beyond.
The facts, discarded in the campaign against "military-style" rifles such as the AR-15, do not concern them, and the facts contradict their arguments and the fact is that their manufactured concern over 3-D plastic guns is unwarranted:
In response to the State Department's decision, 21 state attorneys general sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to argue the decision was "deeply dangerous and could have an unprecedented impact on public safety."
But while that particular case is high-profile, Washington Free Beacon reporter Stephen Gutowski points out that gun blueprints have long been legally available for law-abiding Americans. "Gun blue prints are and have long been readily available on the internet," he tweeted. He further explained that "It has also been perfectly legal for law-abiding Americans to download and print or mill these designs the whole time as well. It has also remained illegal for prohibited persons to build firearms with 3D printers or by any other means as well."
Gutowski added that the majority of guns produced with the aid of 3D printers are detectable with metal detectors as other firearms are. Any that are not detectable would be illegal. "The vast majority of 3D printed gun designs are not undetectable to metal detectors. The majority are mostly made of metal because most of their parts have to be sourced from actual firearms manufacturers. Under federal law it would be illegal to build a gun that's undetectable," he said.
The issue is not undetectable plastic guns. The issue should be very detectable gangs and illegal alien criminals in so-called sanctuary cities, mostly run by progressive socialists. We should fear not plastic guns, but flesh-and-blood criminals. One wag suggested that gun-makers should rename the AR-15 and call it the MS-13 so liberals and progressives would rush to protect it.
Plastic guns? Like liberals, don't leave them out in the sun too long.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.