3-D–printed guns: A real threat?
The age of 3-D–printed guns is coming, said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson, who “has made no bones about his goal, which is to allow anyone to make as many guns as they want without government oversight,” first published downloadable instructions to create an undetectable plastic handgun using a 3-D printer in 2013. Such guns not only could be made at home by criminals or terrorists—they could be smuggled past metal detectors. The Obama administration forced Wilson to pull the files from his website, but the Trump administration reversed course earlier this year. A federal judge filed an injunction just hours before Defense Distributed began uploading the 3-D gun plans, said EJ Montini in The Arizona Republic, but “it’s too late to completely stop it.” The schematics have already been disseminated around the internet, and “it won’t be long before creating a plastic weapon will be easy and inexpensive.”
This isn’t a Second Amendment issue, said David French in NationalReview.com. It’s a First Amendment issue. Defense Distributed was not distributing guns—it was “distributing information.” To order it stopped is to engage in prior restraint of free speech. Censoring these blueprints also is pointless, since plans for printing or making guns at home have been available online for years, and making “totally undetectable” plastic guns would remain a federal crime. The specter of 3-D guns has created “a bizarre political panic” springing from “the larger culture war over gun rights.” Wilson’s real purpose is to “dramatize the futility of gun control,” said Elaine Ou in Bloomberg.com, and every overwrought headline only gives him the publicity he craves.
Gun-control advocates shouldn’t panic, said Andrew Sellars in Slate.com. “The imagination runs wild if you think of 3-D printers like the Replicators on Star Trek,” making perfect copies, but tests have shown these plastic guns would cost thousands of dollars to assemble on sophisticated printers, and would likely break after firing a single round. Wilson’s gun blueprint is actually “little more than a political manifesto.” Strange as it may sound, “there is social value” in allowing publication of his blueprint, since it would provide Congress and the public with advance knowledge on how to respond to the threat of home-manufactured plastic guns—“legally, technically, and otherwise.” Information is not the enemy; ignorance and secrecy are.