Since at least early 2013, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) has been working to stop people from making 3D-printed plastic guns capable of evading security measures. And despite his struggles to convince his colleagues in Congress, he hasn’t given up yet.
Wired reports that Israel’s office plans to reintroduce the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act — which didn’t pass in 2014 — some time in “the next few months.”
3D-printed guns — and in particular Cody Wilson, the person behind the most high-profile effort to make a plastic gun that actually works — have attracted heated, emotional headlines for years. In that time, however, homemade firearms have gone from dangerous toys — more likely to explode in your hand than to effectively shoot a bullet — to legitimate weaponry. The United States Army even wants to start printing them for its soldiers.
But Israel wants to stop these guns in their tracks. As he said in a statement to Wired:
My legislation is about making sure that we have laws in place to ensure that criminals and terrorists can’t produce guns that can easily be made undetectable. Security checkpoints will do little good if criminals can produce plastic firearms and bring those firearms through metal detectors into secure areas like airports or courthouses. When I started talking about the issue of completely plastic firearms, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. That science-fiction is now a dangerous reality.
It’s telling that Israel has to bring up metal detectors when talking about his legislation. That’s the only way he might be able to convince people that banning 3D-printed guns is more than a solution in search of a legitimate problem.
Printing a gun might not require too much knowledge — the 3D-printing industry would be dead if it required everyone to use their own designs — but it does require a lot of time, materials, and access to expensive 3D-printers most people don’t own.
It’s easier to buy a gun illegally than to print one. Hell, gun enthusiasts claim that it’s easier to illegally purchase a firearm than it is to even drill holes in unfinished “receivers” (the part of the gun tracked by the government), according to Fusion.
There’s no denying that 3D-printed guns make it seem like the world has become a futuristic dystopia in which anyone can just print out a dangerous weapon. But the reality is that, except for the specific instance cited by Israel, 3D-printed guns don’t have an advantage over illegally-obtained metallic firearms.
Given all that, it’s sad that our fascination with 3D-printed guns has made them seem more worrisome than the traditional counterparts used to kill people every day. A future in which people print guns isn’t any scarier than a present where guns and gun parts are sold without much thought being given to how they’ll be used.