Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed are back in the news again so we wanted to give you all a heads up on the latest news in the 3D gun debate. Like many public policy debates these days, the 3D gun issue is muddled by myth and “fake news” reporting. If you remember, Mr. Wilson and his Texas based company ignited the debate on 3D printable plastic guns back in 2013 by posting the blueprints for a plastic firearm called the Liberator on the internet. After it was downloaded over 100,000 times, the US State Department compelled the company to take the plans down. A multi-year lawsuit against the Obama administration government on the grounds that he was distributing information and not guns was resolved by the Trump Administration citing the First Amendment and allowing the company to continue offering plans online. However, the move was short lived as a Federal judge in Washington ruled to block the company on July 31, 2018. Since the court ruling, Mr. Wilson has moved the plans to a new company and website. For a great overview on the issues involved, we suggest reading The 3D Gun-Debate: Separating Truth From Fiction by David French of National Review.
The most common argument I hear is that criminals will be able to sneak plastic guns onto airplanes and into other venues where guns are not permitted. This argument is based in fear and hype and not true to the reality of the situation. Most plastic gun designs also incorporate metal parts as well, as the 1968 Gun Control Act prohibits the manufacture of an “undetectable” gun. Moreover, the plastic used to build these guns is oftentimes not strong enough to handle the forces created by explosive gunpowder and designers use metal in key places to strengthen the design so the firearm can maintain its structural integrity under fire. And even if this weren’t the case, most modern scanners are able to easily detect the shape of objects (gun!) and personnel are trained to spot plastic guns, not to mention the actual metal bullets required for operation. So, if you think criminals will be sneaking around with plastic guns any time soon, you’re not being realistic. This article from the Daily Caller lays out many of the issues pretty well.
And speaking of weak plastics…did you know that most of the current printable plastic guns are probably more dangerous to the shooter than to a potential victim. Many have tried to make a plastic gun only to have it explode into a thousand pieces upon firing. Watch this ABC News video report from The Truth About Guns website and see for yourself what goes into making and test firing a plastic gun.
Although 3D printing has come a long way in the past decade, it still takes a lot of time, money, skill and high quality ingredients to make a dependable firearm. Gun manufacturers spend millions on research, design and production to make sure their products are safe and go bang every time. I’ll stick to Glock and Smith & Wesson thank you.