We’re at a crossroads yet again with technology going further than anyone thought possible, and the law struggling to keep up. This has caused a division between the U.S. government, 3D printer owners, and activists alike. This all began when a very popular 3D printing gunsmith named Cody Wilson uploaded his designs and blueprints for his handgun online. For owners of 3D printers, this means that they can simply download the designs and blueprints, and then print gun parts out.
People who are skeptical of being able to own a gun as quickly as pressing ‘print’ have looked to the law for an answer. The ‘Undetectable Firearms Act’ is the law that applies to 3D printed guns. It was drafted in 1988, renewed in 2003, and expires this year! Here’s an excerpt from the law itself which states what is actually deemed illegal: the “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive a firearm that can’t be detected once its grips, stocks and magazines are removed.”
What the law means
The law seems simple enough, however it applies to “any person,” even those who have federal licenses to create guns, such as Cody Wilson. And what about downloading plans to draft guns and uploading the blueprints in the first place? Luckily this isn’t illegal due to the 1st amendment. However, it has to be made clear that as soon as you press ‘print’ you’ve committed an illegal act. Legal analysts are stating that you could try to make the gun more visible by adding something like a piece of metal to the gun as Wilson has done with his 3D printed handgun.
Pirating to the rescue
Pirating to the rescue: After the state department demanded that Cody Wilson take down his blueprints, they didn’t realize they had just given him 3D printed guns, the ultimate promotion. When you ban something, it is an unbeatable way of advertising the product to a large amount of people. This instant promotion meant that pirating websites such as Pirate Bay have everyone who owns a 3D printer and an ambition to create a firearm at their mercy.
At this point, people have realized that this is going to be a revolution of sorts, so there are sides being taken. A surprising example of this is Kim Dotcom, who is against 3D printed guns and who has gone as far as telling his staff to remove 3D gun blueprints from his file sharing website ‘Mega’ altogether. Congressman Israel is hoping to renew the law that makes printing 3D guns illegal this year since it does expire. While these opposing forces can seem intimidating, the sheer size of the people backing up Cody Wilson is amazing.
The Bottom line
There is a lot that isn’t sure at this point. It’s apparent where the governments opinion falls and its also apparent where the opinion of people like Cody Wilson and the people in support of 3D guns falls but only time can tell what legislation will be officially passed, how the guns will affect crime, and what the real demand is for them when the excitement from being banned slowly dies down.