Investigating the growing prevalence of 3-D-printed weaponry, the federal government made and tested its own model of a plastic 3-D-printed gun based on Defense Distributed's Liberator design released earlier this year.
Suffice it to say, at least one exploded upon firing.
One of ATF's 3-D-printed guns could not withstand being fired. (Image source: YouTube)
In a meeting with reporters Wednesday, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said plastic guns present a special challenge for law enforcement agencies.
The issue is that 3-D industrial printers can make guns that can't be picked up by metal detectors.
ATF agents tested the weapon and found it could have lethal -- and explosive -- results. In fact, it literally blew into pieces.
Watch ATF's test footage:
"The bottom line is, the penetration results demonstrated that the Liberator is a lethal weapon," Earl Griffith, chief of ATF firearms technology, said at the press conference, according to the Huffington Post. "The .380 bullets fired from the Liberator penetrate sufficiently to reach vital organs and perforate the skull."
If the top-down view of the test wasn't enough, check out the side view:
The issue appears to occur with the models made with VisiJet material, but ABS material can withstand being shot in this test:
A longtime ban on undetectable firearms is scheduled to expire Dec. 9. Two Democratic U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer of New York and Bill Nelson of Florida, have called for a ban on plastic guns.
"The expiration of this law, combined with advances in 3-D printing, make what was once a hypothetical threat into a terrifying reality," Schumer said. "We are actively exploring all options to pass legislation that will eliminate the problem."
The agents said that in order to comply with current law, a person manufacturing a gun must use a certain amount of metal in the finished product so that the firearm is detectable by scanners at airports, federal buildings, sporting events — any place where security screening is in place. When Defense Distributed's co-founder Cody Wilson unveiled the Liberator, it was designed with this bit of metal embedded.
Defense Distributed unveiled the Liberator gun in May. (Image source: WikiWep DevBlog)
If the law expires, someone could legally make and sell firearms that are undetectable.
A loophole in the existing law allows someone to make an illegal gun legal by simply attaching a removable metal piece to the weapon. That piece could be removed if someone wanted to sneak the weapon into a protected location.
ATF spokesman Christopher Amon said that the agency does not comment on specific legislation, but provides technical advice and assistance to members of Congress and their staff on a variety of firearms-related issues.
The Justice Department has yet not weighed in on the issue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.