Should 3D Printing Real Or Airsoft Guns Be Legal?

in Law/Tech by

The demand for guns in the United States is at or near an all-time high, and as the urgency increases so too does the number of FBI background checks that are carried out on new gun purchases. Firearm legislation is a hotly contested topic these days, which is causing those in the pro-gun camp to clutch their weapons tighter and scramble to purchase more.

The next big question on everyone’s mind seems to be whether or not the public should have the right to print their own guns, and let’s just say the debate so far has been pretty polarized. Those proposing to allow the 3D printing of guns do so in stubborn refusal to “give up their rights” while the opponents of the movement stand by their beliefs that it would be reckless to allow just anyone to produce their own untraceable weapon.

Back in 2012, the public raised hell when the American company ‘Defense Distributed’ published instructions on their website that detailed how to 3D print a working (plastic) gun. The weapon, boldly named “The Liberator” was met with wide controversy. Once it became apparent that the design was successful and could indeed be replicated by anybody, the United States State Department contacted Defense Distributed and ordered them to remove the instructions from their website.

Since then, the discussion has moved out of the government offices and onto the Internet. Whether the gun is a “real” gun or an airsoft model may have some impact on which side of the argument one lies, but either way, there is much to consider. Here’s what Mr. General Public has to say about the issue:

The Nay-Sayers

The majority of those who stand in opposition of the printing of weapons are usually all saying one thing: to allow the public the means to print their guns would be careless, reckless, and, in the worst case scenario, even fatal.

They consider the use of 3D printers to create weapons to be unlawful. ‘Why do we have such rigorous gun legislation if anyone can just bypass the law by printing their own?’ they frequently ask. Perhaps their fears aren’t entirely unwarranted. If the 3D printing of guns were to be allowed, it would require strict, thorough, and efficient regulations to limit who can do the printing.

Let’s propose an example to illustrate this point: a child who has access to a 3D printer heard from his friends about a Liberator style of gun that can be downloaded and printed at the drop of a hat. He fancies himself as a bit of a daredevil, so he goes on the internet, finds the design, and manages to print the weapon. We wouldn’t allow a child to use a firearm in any other situation, and we have laws that prevent this from happening. So by what method, if any, can we effectively regulate this situation?

If we consider an airsoft gun such as the Goog Gun rifles, these are not powerful enough to mortally wound, but they certainly pack enough punch to cause injury if used irresponsibly. If our current gun laws also apply to airsoft, the same rule ought to apply to printed weapons for the sake of consistency.

The Yay-Sayers

Those who ‘stand by their rights’ insist that being able to print a gun is synonymous with their right to make a weapon in any other way, which the people have always had. The proponents of printed firearms feel that to prohibit their ability to manufacture a weapon using a 3D printer is unacceptably restrictive of their rights.

Others will also argue that inhibiting the movement will only give more power to the black market, as we have seen in the past with restrictions on drugs, abortions, and alcohol. It’s often argued that the safest, most efficient way forward is to allow the people their right to print and follow up with strict, rigorously enforced legislation punishing those who do abuse the technology.

Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, it is clear that the law needs to catch up to the technology. The sooner that can occur, the better.

Vicki Clain is a gun supporter that loves to share her thoughts on the industry. She's also a contributor on Huffington Post.

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