Today the House of Representatives approved an extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act by a voice vote, legislation that bans the manufacture, sale or other trafficking in non-metal firearms that can evade metal detection.Â This renewal is significant for a few reasons.Â
The first reason is its impact on 3D printed firearms. TheÂ Undetectable Firearms Act, whichÂ was set to expire on December 9, made it illegal to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm that is not as detectable by walk-throughÂ metal detectionÂ as a security exemplar containing 3.7 oz of steel, or any firearm with major components that do not generate an accurate image before standard airport imaging technology.”
If you read Monderno, you know that 3D printing has been in the news in recent months, mostly because of the folks at Defense Distributed, and you also know that 3D printing is a technology that will soon make controlling the manufacture of firearms all but impossible. Our politicians, who prefer to think of themselves as rulers, don’t particularly like this fact, and today’s vote is their first response. Yes, you can expect more to come.
The second reason this is significant is that the extension passed with bipartisan support in a Republican-led House. While it’s true that the Democrats are typically the party of gun control, I maintain that neither party is truly on the side of liberty, and today’s vote is one small supporting example.
According to The Hill:
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), said the law has had “overwhelming bipartisan support” in the past. However, he was the only Republican to speak on the bill, and the voice-vote approval prevented a detailed examination of how many Republicans opposed the bill.
Now, there are some pro-gun folks who think renewing the Undetectable Firearms Act is a good thing, both because someone might print off a gun and pass through a metal detector, and because Senate Democrats are trying to play politics to expand the bill’s reach. While the latter is most likely true, the former is a bit of a stretch.
First of all, x-ray machines will still pick up the image of a plastic gun, meaning that you can’t get on a plane with one. Second, ammunition can still be detected by metal detectors, though it’s true that the threshold on the machines is typically set high enough such that they don’t pick up a round or two. Third, and most importantly, it’s beyond the scope of foolishness to think that mass murderers, or even common criminals, will be deterred by this ban. Last time I checked, criminals tend to not care much about laws.
So where does this leave 3D printing? That all depends on if and how the law is changed. Currently, there’s a “loophole” that allows you to continue to produce a 3D printed firearm from plastics as long as said firearm has a metal component, so this renewal doesn’t shutdown things like the 3D printed AR-15 lower receiverÂ and other designs. In my view, however, it’s the first indication that lawmakers will soon be focusing more of their undesired attention on 3D printing, which is never a good thing for liberty, and it won’t stop with plastics.
Recently, Solid Concepts, located in Austin, TX, created what is thought to be the first 3D printed metal firearmÂ using Direct Metal Laser SinteringÂ (watch the video). Granted, this technology is too expensive for most folks right now, but that’s the case with any new technology.Â If you think politicians are going to just sit on the sidelines and watch all of this you’re mistaken.
The bottom line on 3D printing is that the toothpaste has been squeezed out of the tube and it’s not going back in. The only thing that remains to be seen is what politicians are going to do about it.