The New York City council introduced a bill Wednesday that would make it a crime “to create any firearm, rifle, shotgun, or any piece or part thereof,” using a 3D printer.
The legislation would, for the first time in the US, make it illegal for anyone, other than a gunsmith, to print the parts. Even licensed gun makers would have to notify police and go about registering any printed firearm within 72 hours.
Ars Techinca reports that the bill is squarely aimed at Defense Distributed, an Austin-based nonprofit digital publisher and 3D Printing R&D firm that has developed some of the world’s first 3D Printable gun components.
Last month, the group announced it was in its final stages of testing a functional firearm produced almost entirely out of plastic parts manufactured by a 3D printer, named the “Liberator pistol“. The gun was successfully fired by the group in a test that received widespread media attention.
On May 6, the group began distributing schematics for the single-shot pistol freely online, allowing anyone connected to the Internet to download them from anywhere in the world. Two days later, the group received a letter from the State Department claiming that what they were doing was illegal according to International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
The letter included a take down order, demanding that all the files be removed from the Defense Distributed website. The group’s founder, Cody Wilson, complied with the order. However, the files had already gone viral and spread throughout the internet on sites such as Pirate Bay, meaning they had already been downloaded over 100,000 times.
“I’m waiting for the shoe to drop—there’s probably going to be an indictment of some kind,” Wilson told Ars by phone on Thursday. “They’re going to come back.”
“So this evening [the White House] announces [the] arming of Syrian rebels,” Wilson added via text message minutes later. “[The Department of State] can literally put guns in the hands of terrorists, but fuck me [because] zomg ‘national security.’”
Wilson’s vision has inspired others to copy the idea and create their own 3D printable firearms, including this one, created for just $25 dollars by hobbyists in Wisconsin, which successfully fired nine .380 caliber rounds.
The New York City council’s legislative attack comes in the wake of similar actions at the State level, as well as in other States such as California, and at the national level with the introduction into the House of a bill entitled The Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which would ban “any firearm that, after removal of grips, stocks, and magazines, is not as detectable as the Security Exemplar, by walk-through metal detectors calibrated and operated to detect the Security Exemplar.”
Defense Distributed, which has also successfully produced 3D printed AR-15 lower and related magazines, has also recently been targeted by the Department of Homeland Security. Fox News recently reported that a DHS memo is being sent to various state and federal law enforcement agencies cautioning, “Limiting plastic guns may be impossible,” and that 3D guns pose “public safety risks.”
“Significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printer files for firearms components, and difficulty regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns,” warns the bulletin compiled by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center,” the memo states.
“This is a serious threat,” a nervous law enforcement source reportedly told Fox, adding, “These could defeat magnetometers. The only security procedure to catch [the 3D firearms] is a pat down. Is America ready for pat-downs at every event?”
Constitutional experts have stated that although banning the actual manufacture, sale, and possession of plastic weapons is feasible, restricting the schematics of the printable weapons is a violation of the First Amendment.
Defense Distributed owner Cody Wilson has appeared on Infowars programming numerous times. In this appearance from May, Wilson discusses government moves to shut down printable firearms.