Rep. Steve Israel Calls for Renewal of Undetectable Firearms Act to Ban 3 D Printed Plastic Guns

(Image: WikiWep DevBlog)

With a group hoping to promote “popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution” by developing a working design for a 3-D printable gun, a Democratic congressman has called for the renewal of legislation that would ban plastic guns. But would it really put a stop to the 3-D printed gun project?

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) late last week issued an announcement for legislation that would renew the ban of plastic guns under the Undetectable Firearms Act, which will expire December 2013.

“Congress passed a law banning plastic guns for two decades, when they were just a movie fantasy,” Israel said in a statement. “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.”

Reauthorization of the Undetectable Firearms Act would make it illegal for the next 10 years after enactment 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.

Although creating undetectable guns is not the intent behind Defense Distributed‘s Wiki Weapons project, founder Cody Wilson said the legislation shouldn’t pose a threat to the project anyway. In a phone interview with TheBlaze, Wilson pointed out that licensed manufacturers have some exemptions in the law.

“It’s ironic [that some are saying] Wiki Weapons would be affected,” Wilson said, noting that the law technically gives them more of an advantage, because it prevents others with a similar idea from doing what his project hopes to accomplish.

The law states:

[...] no provision of this Act shall not apply to: (1) the manufacture, possession, transfer, receipt, shipment, or delivery of a firearm by a licensed manufacturer for the purpose of examining and testing such firearm to determine whether it would be prohibited by this Act; and (2) any firearm which has been certified by the Secretary of Defense or the Director of Central Intelligence as necessary for military or intelligence applications and is manufactured for and sold exclusively to military or intelligence agencies of the United States.

Wilson explained that Defense Distributed, which has the ultimate goal of making 3-D printed gun designs available online at no cost, is a pending 501(c)(3), but under another entity, he has applied to become a licensed firearms manufacturer. Once licensed, the intellectual property files for the completed designs would be donated to Defense Distributed, which would then publish them online.

Under the Undetectable Firearms Act though unlicensed individuals would be prohibited from printing the firearms themselves. Wilson agreed with this and said the organization plans to include a disclaimer in its user licensing agreement that states, depending on the jurisdiction the person is in, printing of the gun might be considered illegal.

“We are going to do everything legally,” Wilson said of Defense Distributed.

Israel acknowledged that printing a complete, fully functional 3-D gun isn’t yet officially possible — as seen by a recent test by Wiki Weapons that destroyed a partially 3-D printed gun within six rounds. But there is still concerned about printing the lower portion of the gun, which does have designs already available online, given that it’s where the serial number is usually placed and is, according to Israel’s press release, the “most federally regulated.” The concern is that replicating this portion of the gun could work around gun control laws. As for the serial number issue, Wilson said the file for an online design does not have to be serialized. (There are more pictures of Wiki Weapons test of its gun with components made on a 3-D printer here.)

Rep. Steve Israel Calls for Renewal of Undetectable Firearms Act to Ban 3 D Printed Plastic Guns

The green portion of this not fully put together gun was made using a 3-D printer. In Defense Distributed’s test, it broke within six rounds of shooting. (Image: WikiWep DevBlog)

The point of Defense Distributed is not so much about arming the masses in the future with easily printed guns, but more so about freedom of sharing information. As stated in one of its FAQ’s asking “why guns?” the group wrote: “If we truly believe information should be free, that the internet is the last bastion of freedom and knowledge, and that societies that share are superior to societies that censor and withhold, then why not guns?”

In another portion of Defense Distributed’s website, it states that the project could “change the way we think about gun control and consumption.” Although not necessarily advocating that people print the guns, which as we discussed above according to current law would be illegal for unlicensed manufacturers, Defense Distributed poses this question to get to its point: “how do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the Internet?”

(H/T: Daily Caller)