It’s not often that I find myself in agreement with Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. But on one crucial aspect of 3D-printed guns, she’s right: Pandora’s box has been opened. The blueprints are circulating.
Loesch is probably much happier about that than I am. Her organization has fought tooth and nail to stop any regulation of firearms. The new 3D-printed guns defy the very possibility of regulation.
A Texas man, Cody Wilson, has waged a multi-year legal battle against the federal government to distribute the blueprints for 3-D guns; including instructions for AR-15 used in so many mass shootings.
Yes, a Seattle judge on July 31 issued a temporary injunction to stop the downloading of the blueprints for the weapons. Note the term temporary.
There will be follow-up hearings mid-month in Seattle and in September in other states where similar court battles are being waged.
But the same day as the ruling, gun rights advocates were reportedly uploading similar gun blueprints on another website. And there are already other outlets that sell online not quite fully assembled guns as a way around regulations on firearms.
Loesch noted on NRA TV that the battle for the plastic guns is “what the rest of us simply call freedom and innovation.”
Again, it’s hard to argue the point. Once people begin to believe that something is possible, they will crank up the ingenuity to achieve it. It’s how we got to the moon.
And don’t comfort yourself with the argument that 3D printers are too expensive, and that somehow that will keep production of these guns to a controllable minimum.
That’s just not the nature of technology. Remember how costly and inconvenient cellular phones used to be. In time, the market demanded more affordability, more convenience, more selection, and manufacturers delivered better products on each count.
Loesch also argues that any efforts toward regulating the guns will be “unenforceable.” That remains to be seen. I certainly believe that the courts and the attorneys general are right to try and stop the spread.
We are poised to become a nation where any yahoo with access to a 3D printer will be able to produce an untraceable, undetectable gun made of plastic.
Like most people, I’m worried about when 3D guns start to hit the streets. Who is going to use them first, and for what purposes?
It’s possible they will be popular mostly among gun enthusiasts and collectors, the kind of people who keep their weapons safely locked in a cabinet.
But the fundamental selling points of 3D guns — their accessibility, stealth and lack of traceability — make them ideal for the conspiratorially and criminally minded.
These weapons could be smuggled into a court chambers, prisons, airplanes and other places without too much trouble. Normal screening won’t detect the weapon. And serial numbers aren’t attached to check for stolen weapons. That’s why they’re called “ghost guns.”
Those who wish to regulate or ban plastic guns are coming from the right place: a deep concern for public safety. But they are chasing a horse with a big head start. Yes, there are already laws against producing weapons on 3D printers. But that doesn’t mean that people won’t eagerly do it.
We’re late to this matchup. And the NRA isn’t about to concede the high ground. It’s been very difficult to pass legislation in this country that meaningfully protects citizens from gun violence, and 3D-printed guns are about to make it harder.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.