Should 3-D Printed Guns Be Legal?

A Texas nonprofit created the world's first 3-D printed gun, made almost entirely of plastic.


A 3-D printer similar to this one was used to create the world's first 3-D printed gun.

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Last week the world's first 3-D printed gun fired its first shot, at a private shooting range in Texas. The gun was entirely made from plastic except for a nail used as a firing pin.

The plastic firearm was created by Cody Wilson and his nonprofit Defense Distributed on a second-hand, $8,000 3-D printer. Wilson, a 25-year-old law school student, worked on the gun's creation for more than a year before the first shot was fired last week. He is a libertarian and "crypto-anarchist," and created the group with the intention of developing a firearm anyone could reproduce using 3-D printing technology.

I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people. That's what it is: It's a gun … But I don't think that's a reason to not put it out there. I think that liberty in the end is a better interest.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

The weapon, which took four hours to print, does include a six-ounce steel chunk which puts it into compliance with federal law banning weapons that don't set off a metal detector. But Wilson aims to make the blueprint for the gun publicly available, and there's no guarantee those who reproduce it will include the metal and comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act. New York Sen. Charles Schumer said for this reason printable weapons should be banned:

Guns are made out of plastic, so they would not be detectable by a metal detector at any airport or sporting event. Only metal part of the gun is the little firing pin and that is too small to be detected by metal detectors, for instance, when you go through an airport … A terrorist, someone who's mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon can essentially open a gun factory in their garage.

[ Read the U.S. News Debate: Should Congress Support Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases?]

Stratasys, which manufactures the 3-D printer Wilson used to make the plastic gun, confiscated the original printer he was using last year when it found out what he was using the technology for. Defense Distributed now has a federal license to manufacture firearms, and Wilson said he inserted the steel chunk into the gun because of the the nonprofit's "strategy is overcompliance."

The Undetectable Firearms Act expires at the end of the year, and Schumer said it needs to be updated to ban printable weapons. He also announced that he and Rep. Steve Israel, also a New York Democrat, will introduce the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act.

What do you think? Should 3D printed guns be legal? Take the poll and comment below.

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