ANDY GREENBERG-- Wired
SINCE CONGRESSMAN STEVE Israel first called for legislation that would ban 3-D printed guns, those plastic-printed firearms have evolved from a few simple components to a full one-shot pistol to rifles and multi-shot revolvers, with more advances on the horizon. Israel’s bill, meanwhile, has gone nowhere, leaving a widening gap between DIY weapons and the law.
But the representative from New York says he hasn’t given up: In the next few months, Israel’s office tells WIRED he plans to reintroduce legislation that would ban 3-D printed guns or any other fully-plastic firearm. The Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which Israel first tried and failed to pass last year, forbids the possession or manufacture of any gun that could slip through a standard metal detector unnoticed, including those that include a removable chunk of non-functional metal—what he sees as a loophole in the current law against plastic weapons.
“My legislation is about making sure that we have laws in place to ensure that criminals and terrorists can’t produce guns that can easily be made undetectable. Security checkpoints will do little good if criminals can produce plastic firearms and bring those firearms through metal detectors into secure areas like airports or courthouses,” Israel wrote in a statement to WIRED. “When I started talking about the issue of completely plastic firearms, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. That science-fiction is now a dangerous reality.”
Since Israel first began focusing on 3-D printed weapons as an issue, he has shifted from seeking to specifically forbid their printing to instead banning all undetectable weapons—an umbrella he intends to include 3-D printed ones. “What we’re trying to do is make it clear that if you choose to construct a weapon or weapon component using a 3-D printer, and it’s homemade, you’ll be subject to penalties,” Israel told me in early 2013. More recently he’s made clear that he doesn’t intend to target 3-D printing specifically: The bill he introduced at the end of 2013 never mentioned 3-D printing by name.
But Israel’s bill does seem designed to address weapons like the Liberator, a one-shot 3-D printed pistol whose digital blueprints were released by the gun access group Defense Distributed in 2013. The Liberator, as manufactured and demonstrated by Defense Distributed’s founder Cody Wilson, was technically detectable by a standard metal detector, because it included a chunk of steel in its body to comply with the current Undetectable Firearms Act. But that piece was entirely non-functional and could be removed at any time.