A D.C. Council member is proposing legislation to ban plastic guns made with the emerging technology of 3-D printers just days after a group claimed to have successfully test-fired the first functional weapon produced.
Tommy Wells on Tuesday introduced a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to make or possess one of the weapons.
“The end product is a cheap, functional and undetectable weapon that can be produced with nothing more than a home computer and 3-D printer,” said Mr. Wells, chairman of the council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.
The digital manufacturing technology can be used to create scores of items, but only recently has it been used to make weapons. Defense Distributed, a Texas-based group, this week test-fired the first gun — which it calls the Liberator — made with the technology. The group has loaded all of the weapon’s blueprints online so anyone with a 3-D printer can download the 2 megabyte file and make a gun at home. The Daily Mail reported that schematics for the plastic gun’s design were downloaded more than 50,000 times on Monday.
An online Defense Distributed video showing the test-fire of the Liberator interlaces patriotic music with a montage of panoramic sunsets, fighter jets and images of the gun’s tiny plastic pieces before being assembled.
The printers turn blueprints from digital models into actual objects by printing layers of a material, usually plastic. The layers harden into place, creating the object.
The District’s move to ban the manufacture and possession of such objects comes a day after Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, spoke in favor of federal legislation to similarly ban the weapons and about a month after federal legislation to reauthorize an existing ban on undetectable firearms was introduced.
The District has among the most restrictive gun laws in the country, allowing residents to own and possess guns only inside their homes or places of business. Lawmakers appeared likely to support restrictions on the homemade firearms as well, with nine of the other 12 D.C. Council members co-sponsoring Mr. Wells‘ bill.
The fear of the guns manufactured by 3-D printers is that they could be printed at home, and therefore not be regulated, and that they could be brought undetected through metal detectors or X-ray machines. The federal Undetectable Firearms Act, which was passed in 1988 and is set to expire in December, bans weapons that cannot be detected in such a fashion.
According to Forbes, Defense Distributed has complied with the federal law by inserting a 6-ounce cube of nonfunctional steel into the body of the Liberator, making it detectable with a metal detector. But nothing is to say that others who download and print the weapon will do the same.
“These weapons create a significant and immediate threat to our public safety,” Mr. Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, said.