Two bills in New York City aim to keep 3-D printed guns off the streets.
The first bill, introduced by a New York City councilman Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn), limits the production of 3-D printed guns to licensed gunsmiths, and requires gunsmiths to notify the New York Police Department 72 hours prior to using a 3-D printer to make any gun part.
In the New York State Assembly Codes Committee, a different bill would outright ban the sales, use, and manufacture of 3-D printed guns.
Both of these bills go further than current federal regulation, which allows for the home manufacture of guns, provided the guns are not resold and fall within certain size and function restraints. The most notable restriction is that the receiver, which houses the working parts of the gun, has to be at least 20 percent completed by the person making it at home. This is such an established part of private gun assembly that there’s a thriving market for 80 percent complete receivers.
Creating a full gun with a 3-D printer meets that requirement. While 3-D printed gun pioneer Defense Distributed got in trouble with the State Department for making gun plans available online, individuals who possess the necessary printer are free to make gun parts on their own until either of these laws pass.
This is fascinating because lawmakers are trying to regulate away a problem that doesn’t exist yet. While some criminals get their guns from crooked gun makers, that’s a problem that predates 3-D printing, and is only part of the highly saturated American black market gun trade. Right now, 3-D printed guns can only fire one bullet at a time, and poorly assembled guns explode when fired. Commercially produced guns are far more effective, available in greater numbers, and can even be assembled from kits full of untraceable parts.
At their very best, these pieces of legislation are preemptive, trying to future-proof the law against the inevitably better homemade guns of that will come with time. It’s a bold move, but until home manufacture is cheaper than purchasing a gun off the black market, don’t expect this legislation to save many lives, especially not with 310 million guns already in the U.S.