WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) is co-sponsoring a bill to make it illegal to post blueprints for 3D-printed guns on the internet. The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act was introduced Friday by Schneider, Rep. Ted Deutsch (D-Boca Raton, Florida), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston, Florida) and Carolyn Maloney (D-New York City), according to a release. The House version of the legislation is a companion to a Senate bill introduced last month and sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida).
The proposal would ban the publication of “digital instructions in the form of computer-aided design files or other code that can automatically program a 3-dimensional printer or similar device to produce a firearm or complete a firearm from an unfinished receiver.” The law is not aimed at restricting the First Amendment free speech rights of computer programmers, “but rather to curb the pernicious effects of untraceable—and potentially undetectable—firearms,” according to its text.
The bill’s backers argued 3D-printed plastic guns “can be virtually undetectable when carried through a metal detector or past security screening checkpoints.”
Undetectable guns have been banned under federal law since 1988. To comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act, plastic 3D-printed guns have included a metal nail a a firing pin and a piece of steel designed to trigger metal detectors.
“If plans for homemade plastic guns are readily available on the internet, with just a few clicks individuals could avoid a background check and build a deadly firearm undetectable by security systems,” said Schneider.
“These 3D-printed guns are a threat to the safety of our nation and communities, and I’m glad to join my colleagues in introducing a bill to keep these blueprints from being posted online.”
The Congressional Democrats sponsoring the plan ban blamed President Donald Trump for awith the U.S. Department of State earlier this year that allowed for the online publication of firearm blueprints and the payment of $39,581 in legal fees to a gun-rights advocacy group.
The deal followed more than five years of litigation and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in January not to hear arguments on a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the publication of the gun plans.
According to Wired, which first reported the April agreement ending the litigation, the states argue the “unexplained, sudden settlement” with the State Department violated the Administrative Procedure Act – the law regulating federal rule-making changes and requiring public comments, among other things.
Last week in Seattle, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik issued a temporary restraining order forcing the removal of files for 3D-printed guns a second time in response to a lawsuit from the attorneys general of 21 states.
Gun rights advocates had hailed the settlement as a victory for the Second Amendment, interpreting it as an acknowledgement from the State Department that semi-automatic rifles are not subject to military weapon export controls.
“For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. The state department had argued posting the files online qualified as “illegal arms exports” under the International Traffic In Arms Regulations (ITAR) – a claim it dropped in the settlement.
Despite the judge’s ruling, the files had already been posted for several days at Defcad.com by self-described crypto-anarchist Cody Wilson, whose settlement with the State Department was triggered on July 27. The plans had been downloaded thousands of times.
Wilson founded Defense Distributed in 2012, inspired by Julian Assange to create the “Wikileaks for guns.” That year, he was kicked off the crowdfunding site Indiegogo and a leased 3D printer was repossessed.
“By December I was labeled a terrorist by Bloomberg-controlled political lobbies and marked by the tech publications as one of the most dangerous people in the world,” Wilson wrote in 2017. “Versions of this cycle have happened to me every year since then.”
Wilson expanded from posting 3D-printed gun plans into other ventures as his legal fees mounted in his battle with the State Department. He created the “Ghost Gunner,” milling devices that are designed to turn lower receivers into untraceable weapons, according to Ars Technica.
In 2017, he founded Hatreon, an online fundraising platform that has supported white supremacists banned from other crowdfunding sites. The site has been disabled for an “upgrade” since February. He told ABC News he felt “no shame at all” in helping “these total villains” to counter efforts to restrict “realistic debate.”
“I’ve demonstrated – and Assange has and the bitcoin people have – that crypto-anarchy is really what’s winning right now,” Wilson told ABC. “The classical ideas of, control, confinement, surveillance – they don’t really apply to persistent, live networking.”
The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act has been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and March for Our Lives. Its sponsors said the legislation was needed to prevent an increase in the accessibility of firearms.
“The idea of untraceable, undetectable guns available to anyone, even violent criminals and domestic abusers, with the click of a mouse is utterly terrifying,” said Maloney.
I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
The National Rifle Association disputed the idea that 3D printing technology would allow for the “widespread proliferation” of undetectable plastic firearms.
“Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the Internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years,” the organization said in a statement. “Federal law passed in 1988, crafted with the NRA’s support, makes it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive an undetectable firearm.”
Another House bill, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-Pawtucket, Rhode Island), would update that law to ban firearms without a unique serial number and require they have a major component part made of a detectable form of metal. A Senate version was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).
“I’ve previously introduced legislation to crack down on untraceable ‘Ghost Guns’ bought and shipped as unassembled kits, and will continue to work to close loopholes allowing individuals to evade our nation’s background check system,” Schneider said in a release.
With the right equipment and expertise, firearms can also be assembled using metal parts from computer-controlled metal milling devices.