WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference with Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), as well as representatives from Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez announced he is co-sponsoring the 3D Printing Safety Act and the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2018, two new pieces of legislation to address the threat of 3D downloadable plastic guns.
“This country already has a gun violence problem; a mass shooting problem; a suicide problem,” Sen. Menendez said. “Do-it-yourself downloadable guns will supercharge this crisis, leading to more senseless tragedies. I don’t care if a gun is made out of metal, out of plastic, or out of tin foil, if it can fire a bullet and take someone’s life then it must be regulated.”
In a stunning and sudden reversal of course last month, the U.S. State Department agreed to a settlement with Defense Distributed that would allow anyone to download blueprints for the 3D printing of firearms like the AR-15 from their website. These downloadable guns are untraceable and no background check is required.
Last week, when Senator Menendez, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), was made aware that the State Department had agreed to the settlement without notifying the Committee, he immediately called on Secretary Mike Pompeo to intervene and review the decision before any blueprints were made public, asserting it ran afoul of federal law.
Sen. Menendez pressed the Secretary of State again during a hearing of the SFRC, asking Pompeo, “Why on Earth would the Trump administration make it easier for terrorists and gunmen to produce undetectable plastic guns?”
The 3D Printing Safety Act
This legislation will restrict the publication of digital code to automatically print 3D printed firearms. The bill focuses specifically on “automatic” instructions—digital code that is simply downloaded and programmed into a 3-D printer to produce a firearm.
The Untraceable Firearms Act of 2018
Under current federal law, it is legal for someone to make and sell a gun-making kit as long as the kit does not include a full receiver—the part of the gun that is legally defined as a “firearm.” By selling a near-complete receiver as part of the kit, known as “80 percent” receivers, these DIY gun-kit sellers are able to manufacture and distribute the kits without running afoul of legal requirements to obtain a license, register the materials that they are selling, and subject purchasers to a background check. These kits sell for $450-$1000 online and take only a few hours to assemble. The lower receiver can also be manufactured or completed using 3D-printing technology.
Firearms made using these kits are referred to as “ghost guns” because they are not legally required to have a serial number or any other form traceable identification or registration. Purchasers also do not have to undergo a background check to purchase these kits or to print a firearm using 3D printing technology. By selling a firearm assembly kit or a blueprint to 3D-print a firearm, manufacturers and purchasers can essentially circumvent all federal gun regulations, allowing anyone – including convicted felons, domestic abusers, and terrorists – to get their hands on a firearm legally.
The Untraceable Firearms Act of 2018 addresses this loophole primarily by amending the existing definition of “firearm” under federal law to include gun kits and partial receivers and by changing the definition of “manufacturing firearms” to include assembling firearms using 3D printing technology. By modifying these definitions, the Untraceable Firearms Act ensures that “ghost guns,” including firearms manufactured or completed using 3D printing, are subject to existing federal firearm regulation, including:
The bill also addresses “undetectable firearms” by revising the definition of “prohibited firearms “under federal law to include those that can be easily modified to make it through security checks undetected.