Colorado Editorials

The Colorado Springs Gazette: 3D guns need a common sense approach

Author: The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board - August 7, 2018 - Updated: August 7, 2018

For the moment, we seem to have avoided the sum of all fears.

At least, that’s what’s being said now that a federal judge in Seattle has barred the blueprints for 3-D printed firearms from being distributed online.

Cody Wilson, founder of the Austin, Texas-based startup Defense Distributed, prepared to market the blueprints in 2013, but was shut down by the Obama administration for violating arms distribution laws. Then Donald Trump took office, and the Defense Department reversed its decision in June.

On Wednesday, plans for 3-D printed handguns and rifles would have been available for download by anyone with internet access, if it weren’t for the July 31 injunction.

On Friday, another hearing will take place to determine whether the injunction should be permanent. Until then, the debate is sure to continue with both sides relying on fear and hyperbole to make their points.

Wilson’s claim has been about the freedom of speech and distributing information. His blueprints, he says, are no different from textbooks or instruction manuals. As such, they are a form of protected speech. The blueprints are also necessary components needed to manufacture a firearm, and thus constitute the distribution of said firearms. Distribution without a federally issued license violates ATF regulations.

On one hand, manufacturing and possessing plastic guns has been illegal for 30 years, so the blueprints are essentially useless to those concerned about the law. But they do offer a unique resource to criminals. Printed firearms are easy to make, easy to destroy, and are untraceable by the government (they have no serial numbers).

Opposition toward 3-D printed firearms isn’t necessarily due to their immediate impact. It’s because of their potential of giving criminals open access to weapons. This fear of the distribution of illegal firearms can be somewhat eased by the fact that 3-D printing is expensive and time consuming, and the products aren’t always high-quality. But if one is patient, an AR-15 can be printed for as little as $600. It’s slow, but it can be done.

Aside from their general illegality, a few issues need to be resolved before 3-D printed firearms should be accepted on the market. Not the least of which is the implementation of a background check for the download of the blueprints and a serial number to track each firearm produced. Of course, there will always be black markets. But what we can do is treat 3-D printed firearms like every other kind of gun and use common sense when distributing, producing and selling them.

The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board