U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) filed legislation today to block the online publication of blueprints that can be used to make fully functioning 3D-printed guns.
“These 3D-printed plastic firearms can evade our detection systems and are a direct threat to our national security,” Nelson said at a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday to announce the legislation. “And we are going to let these go up on the internet tonight at midnight?”
The legislation Nelson filed today would make it illegal for anyone to intentionally publish a digital file online that programs a 3D printer to automatically manufacture a firearm. The move comes just hours before Trump administration is going to allow people to start posting such blueprints online.
3D-printed plastic guns are fully-functioning firearms often made with resin or plastic using a 3D printer, making them virtually undetectable when carried through a metal detector or past security.
In August 2016, Transportation and Security Administration agents at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport found and confiscated a plastic gun from a passenger’s carry-on bag during screening. The gun, assembled using a 3D printer, was found loaded with five live .22 caliber bullets.
“Just think about all the work we’re doing to hardening our schools in the wake of the Parkland shooting,” Nelson said. “None of that will do any good if you can simply print one of these undetectable plastic guns at home.”
For years, the U.S. State Department has argued that allowing these blueprints for 3D-printed guns to be published online would violate federal export controls because the digital codes would help facilitate the manufacturing of weapons that can be accessed freely around the globe.
Despite the State Department’s argument and a longstanding ban that has prohibited Americans from publishing such documents online, the U.S. Justice Department decided to abruptly settle a lawsuit earlier this month that will allow people to start posting blueprints for 3D-printed guns online starting Wednesday, August 1.
Nelson and others have argued that the Justice Department’s decision will make it easier for people in the U.S. who are barred from owning a firearm under federal law – including violent criminals and domestic abusers – to make their own untraceable and undetectable firearms at home using a 3D printer.
In 2013, Congress extended a ban on the sale, manufacturing or possession of these fully-plastic guns by requiring that all firearms contain at least 3.7 ounces of steel so they can be detected by a metal detector.
In extending that ban, however, Congress did not mandate which parts of the gun had to be metal – creating a legal loophole that allows people to attach a small removable piece of metal to an otherwise fully-plastic gun. These detachable metal clips can often be easily removed before entering a security screening area and reattached again after to meet the law’s requirement.
In addition to the legislation Nelson and others filed today to block the publication of the blueprints that can be used to make 3D-printed guns, Nelson and a separate group of lawmakers also introduced legislation today that would, among other things, require that every firearm have at least one main component (e.g. the frame or barrel) made of metal.
Nelson’s legislation to block the publishing of 3D-printed gun blueprints starting at midnight tonight is cosponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).
In addition to Nelson, the legislation to ban so-called ghost guns by requiring one main component be made of metal and have a serial number is cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
Text of the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act is available here.
Text of the Untraceable Firearms Act is available here.