December 12, 2013

Threat of 3D-printed guns expected to grow

No criminal arrests have been reported, but improved technology is making it easier to produce the all-plastic weapons at home.

By J. Craig Anderson
Staff Writer

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Congress has renewed a ban on undetectable firearms, including 3D-printed guns made of plastic. A Texas man used 3D to make this mostly plastic gun.

Associated Press/

“Our Glocks (handguns) are made out of a high-grade polymer plastic, but the barrel is made of metal,” he said.

Law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Europe say they have tested 3D-printed guns after downloading design files from the Internet, and have fired multiple shots from single guns. However, each shot damaged the barrel of the gun, which had to be replaced between firings.

The ban on undetectable guns that Congress renewed Monday has been in force since the Reagan administration, long before the advent of 3D printing, and was due to expire the next day. The Republican-led House approved the extension last week, and President Obama signed the bill late Monday.

The National Rifle Association, which has helped scuttle proposals for tougher firearms restrictions this year, did not oppose the decade-long extension, The Associated Press reported. It did oppose an effort by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrats to strengthen the law by requiring that any plastic firearm include a detectable metal component that cannot be removed. Senate Republicans defeated that proposal.

Some plastic firearms technically comply with the quarter-century-old law by containing a detachable metal part, but the part can be slipped off to evade airport security. Democrats said the stricter language is needed in an era when improved and increasingly accessible 3D printers can produce functioning guns.

Democrats who support tightening the rules said the 10-year renewal helps the gun lobby because it inhibits lawmakers’ ability to revisit the issue, the AP reported.

“It’s time that we recognize that the future is here; plastic guns are real,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

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