We Can't Let the NRA Have Its Way on 3-D Printed Guns


Author's Disclaimer: All views and opinions in this article are my own and not representative of the U.S. Military and/or the Department of Defense. All sources used were unclassified. 

Will the Senate stand up to the National Rifle Association (NRA)? That's the main question on Monday, when they are expected to vote on whether or not to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988.

On Tuesday, December 3, the House voted to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act (UFA) for 10 years — which is set to expire on Dec. 9 — with the two-thirds majority needed. However, the the NRA's influence might shoot down amendments to the bill in the Senate. Pun intended.

The law, which is spearheaded by Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and sponsored by Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), would prohibit the manufacture and distribution of firearms that cannot be detected by metal screening machines, including those made of plastic. Recently, there has been growing concern over these types of weapons due to today's technological advances. In March, the blueprints of the world's first fully 3D-printable gun were downloaded over 100,000 times in just two days.

An amendment to the law, opposed by the NRA, would require plastic firearms to contain a permanent metal part, which cannot be easily removed. Currently, anyone with a 3D printer could produce a lethal firearm made entirely of plastic. 3D printers comply with the current law by producing plastic guns with easily removable metal parts, making them undetectable. This amendment would in essence safeguard the population — as plastic weapons can slip past law enforcement personnel and airport security checkpoints undetected. Remember that scene from "In the Line of Fire"?

"The NRA has been working for months to thwart expansion of the [Undetectable Firearms Act] by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others," writes the NRA in a statement. "We will continue to aggressively fight any expansion of the UFA or any other proposal that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights."

As someone who understands the real dangers of unconventional weapons, rejecting these amendments would be, for a lack of a better word, stupid. See also: Lacking intelligence or common sense.

Here is Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is in favor of the amendment, speaking with CNN's Erin Burnett.

So why is this issue divided?

The NRA, along with some Senate Republicans, are obstructionists on this issue. Last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), with support from other Republicans, blocked the Senate from considering the law's renewal. In the Senate, Schumer brought up the bill with fellow Democrats, who support closing the "dangerous loophole" that the current law allows.

Some advocates of letting the law expire suggest that law enforcement cannot ultimately stop terrorists from using plastic weapons, and that metal detectors in airport and security procedures are nothing more than security theater. Terrorists would adapt to the tactics, techniques, and procedures that are employed by law enforcement officials. So in essence, we should not worry about this law because, hey, they are going to do it anyway and all that security is just something nice to look at.

The NRA, which is the leading gun rights lobbying group in Washington, has stated publicly that they strongly oppose any amendments of the Undetectable Firearms Act, including applying them to magazines, gun parts, or the development of new technologies. A smaller gun rights group that is gaining strength in Washington, Gun Owners of America, told the New York Times that the extension of the current law and its amendments are unnecessary because 3D printing technology is not widely available, arguing that these types of weapons are not a safety threat because of the cost that is involved in purchasing a 3D printer. 

However, Schumer pointed out, "3D printers are a miraculous technology that have the potential to revolutionize manufacturing, but we need to make sure they are not being used to make deadly, undetectable weapons."

Schumer continued, pointing to a case in Texas where a student's recent invention of a working pistol using a personal 3D printer, which sent out a signal that anyone, anywhere, anytime, soon will be able to make a gun that's capable of killing that will be undetectable by metal detectors.

Whatever the case, it's important to renew this law, including the above amendment. This is simple, common sense legislation. This is not an issue where the government is abusing its power to trample on the constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. It's an issue of safety, for all, for those who protect us, and for those they protect. Today, almost everyone has something they disagree with about how the way the government is running things. This is one of those issues that should be agreed upon by all. Because again, it's common sense.