The United States of America have officially extended the Undetectable Firearms Act, which forbids the production of guns that can’t pass a metal detector, such as 3D printed plastic guns. The United States House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly in favor of this law, which was due to expire on December 9th. However, the Undetectable Firearms Act appears to be a dated law and it fails to ban all 3D printed plastic guns.
The problem with the Undetectable Firearms Act for America is that it is a 1988 law, and as you might have expected 3D printing wasn’t a thing back in the late eighties. Therefore, the law didn’t include special rules to make it harder for people to create potentially dangerous 3D printed plastic guns. Most important about this is that the law does not require 3D printed guns to have permanent metal inserts in order to prevent them from passing a metal detector.
3D printed guns, such as the popular Liberator, often include a metal block to make sure it can’t pass such detectors. However, such a metallic part is easily removable and some American lawmakers believe this could lead to dangerous situations. For instance, if a person would really want to do a terrorist attack, he or she could just 3D print the Liberator and remove the metallic part and pass a metal detector of a public place, such as a school or an airport. Because the files you need to 3D print a plastic gun are easily downloadable, 3D printing guns appears to be a possibility for anyone who owns a 3D printer.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who was also a leading figure in the support of the extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act, has told CNN that the extension is better than than nothing, but isn’t good enough yet. “We absolutely must close the loophole that allows anyone to legally make a gun that could be rendered invisible by the easy removal of its metal part. Under current law, it is legal to make a plastic gun so long as it has some metal in it, even if it is easily removable. The bill we’ll try to pass in the Senate would fix that.”
A New York representative might have the solution to this problem. Steve Israel wants to expand the Undetectable Firearms Acts. Therefore, he created a bill called the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which has to require all major components of a gun to be individually detectable by a metal detector. With major components he means the slide and receiver plus the barrel in case the gun is a rifle. This would be making it harder for individuals to legally 3D print a gun. Besides the fact he’s opposed to 3D printing plastic guns, he’s not at all against 3D printing in general. “I’m not seeking to regulate or reduce the use of 3D printers at all,” he told Forbes during Januari 2013. “This isn’t about 3D printers. It’s about the use of a 3D printer to manufacture a weapon that can’t be detected by metal detectors.”
Of course, there are also supporters of 3D printing plastic guns in America who think this will not be a dangerous thing to do. They say it takes a lot of time and money to create a 3D printed gun, which means people will not take the effort. To prove their point, they say it hasn’t led to dangerous situations so far. They also argue that airport scanners can detect plastic objects with no metal in them. One of them is Lawrence Keane, who works for the National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. According to The Christian Science Monitor, he’s said the following about this: “There has never been a single crime committed with one of these objects. You don’t see homemade guns recovered at crime scenes today.”
Francine Kiefer, a writer for The Christian Science Monitor responds to Keane in het article with the following words: “Perhaps not today, but what about tomorrow? Technology moves very quickly, argue advocates of updating the law. What is difficult and costly to produce now, will soon be easy to make – and more lethal, they say.”
And the story continues.