This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, November 15th, 2013:
Anti-gun liberals like Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ben Nelson (D-Fla.) along with Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) have their knickers in a knot over the imminent expiration of the Undetectable Firearms Act in a little over three weeks. They simply can’t abide the idea of allowing Americans to make their own firearms at home without serial numbers, without a license, without permission, without approval. Something must be done!
Happily, they can’t do much, except protest. Said Schumer: “The expiration of this law, combined with advances in 3-D printing, make what was once a hypothetical threat into a terrifying reality. [Naturally] we are actively exploring all options to pass legislation that will eliminate the problem.”
Israel provided his own echo chamber: “Back then, in 1988, the notion of a 3-D plastic gun was science fiction. Now, a month away, it is reality.” But the choicest remarks came from Nelson:
The fact that anyone with the right equipment can make a fully functioning weapon from their own home with the click of a mouse is a truly frightening concept.
Weapons like these pose a serious threat to our national security and we need to do everything we can to keep them off the streets.
What’s “truly frightening” is the amount of air time the liberal media is giving these totalitarians. Prior to 1968, Americans could walk into any hardware store in the country and purchase a firearm over the counter: no background check, no questions, no problem. One could even buy them out of the Sears catalog. It was called freedom. Today Nelson calls that “a truly frightening concept.”
The Act had its genesis in the early 1980s, when Gaston Glock invented his now widely popular polymer handgun and liberals went ballistic (sorry) over the possibility that one of them might not be detected at the airport. The fact that Glocks are mostly made of metal parts escaped the attention of the anti-gun nuts, or they didn’t really care. They got their way, passing the UFA in 1988, with the help of the National Rifle Association, ever the reliable defender of the Second Amendment. The NRA folded like a cheap suit when it realized that the law wouldn’t affect those of its members who already owned handguns. The Brady bunch declared it a victory.
The UFA contained a 10-year sunset clause, but that hasn’t deterred Congress from extending the law, first in 1998 for five years, and then again in 2003 for ten years. The text of the law states:
It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm … that, after removal of grips, stocks, and magazines, is not … detectable … by walk-through metal detectors….
Technology and the internet have effectively neutered such language. Cody Wilson, the founder of his crowd-funded startup Defense Distributed, developed the software for 3-D printers to allow them to print his “Liberator .380” firearm out of plastic. Once the feds learned what he was doing, they forced him to shut down access to those files, but by then it was too late: those files had already been downloaded more than 100,000 times, and his software is available elsewhere on the internet from mirror websites like Pirate Bay.
Michael, from Canada, built his own rifle using Wilson’s software, and proudly demonstrated its ability to fire 14 rounds without a misfire. Solid Concepts, out of California, has gone several steps further and developed software to build an all metal gun, calling it “The World’s First 3D Printed Metal Gun,” mimicking John Browning’s Colt .45 and firing it 500 times successfully without incident.
That the cat was out of the bag was admitted by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center back in May:
Significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printer files for firearms components, and difficulties regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns….
Proposed legislation to ban 3D printing of weapons may deter, but cannot completely prevent, their production. Even if the practice is prohibited by new legislation, online distribution of these digital files will be as difficult to control as any other illegally traded music, movie, or software files….
Limiting access may be impossible.
And that’s the beauty of it all. As J.D. Tuccille noted in Reason magazine:
The DIY [do-it-yourself] revolution that brings us easily produced homemade guns, and so much more, is [no longer] a goal confined to wishful thinking. That … is the whole idea of developing and spreading the technology: to put its control beyond the practical reach of the control freaks….
What are the chances that those “control freaks” Schumer, Nelson, and Israel will get anything passed in time to head off the imminent disaster – the breaking out of freedom – before December 9th? Between slim and none. First of all, the files are available on the internet and being copied, enhanced, modified, and downloaded constantly. And the rate accelerates as the threat of government increases. The harder the “control freaks” push for sanctions, the faster freedom spreads. It’s like trying to pick up liquid mercury with a fork.
Secondly, just how willing is Congress likely to be to consider this bill in light of every other disaster currently burying them like an avalanche?
Thirdly, since the software genie has already left the bottle, will Congress try to shut down 3-D printers? Hardly likely. That technological wonder is having such amazing positive effects elsewhere that legislation that would threaten it simply won’t happen.
Even the liberal Washington Post has admitted that extension of the Act is highly unlikely, as Israel’s bill is “stuck in committee and its prospects appear dim.”
Put another way, the prospects for freedom are getting brighter all the time.
Washington Post: Printed plastic guns a growing worry for law enforcement