- To counter the rise in 3D printed guns, a new bill proposes a mandatory criminal background to buy a 3D printer.
A new bill introduced in the New York Senate proposes a criminal background check to buy a 3D printer. With this bill, every single buyer will have to undergo the process and submit the report if one intends to purchase a 3D printer This step is being taken to combat the rise in 3D Printed guns, also known as ‘ghost guns’.
Supporters of the bill argue that it closes a legal loophole by allowing convicted felons who would otherwise be barred from legally purchasing a firearm to simply 3D print individual components to create an untraceable ghost gun.
Bill to reduce prevalence of 3D Printed Guns
The bill, known as AB A8132 in New York, would require a criminal history background check for anyone attempting to purchase a 3D printer capable of producing a firearm. It would also make it illegal to sell those printers to anyone who has a criminal record that precludes them from owning a firearm. As written, the bill does not specify which models or brands of printers might fall into this broad category. A three-dimensional printer is defined in the bill as a “device capable of producing a three-dimensional object from a digital model.”
“Three-dimensionally printed firearms, a type of untraceable ghost gun, can be built by anyone using a $150 three-dimensional printer . This bill will require a background check so that three-dimensional printed firearms do not get in the wrong hands.”– Jenifer Rajkumar, Senator, New York State
Ghost guns are unregistered and untraceable firearms that individuals can purchase or assemble on their own without a background check. In general, ghost guns are not specifically guns made with a 3D printer, but any unsealed and untraceable firearm falls into this category. Because 3D printers have made it easier to build these guns, they have become the target of this proposed bill.
Rise in occurrence of Ghost Guns
For the past two years, the New York Police Department has reportedly seen a 60% increase in the number of ghost guns seized from city streets. The New York Police Department recently linked some online ghost gun sales to a “ghost gun printing operation” containing 3D printers and firearms hidden within a daycare center.
This is not just a state issue but has become a national issue. According to a report released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, ghost gun recoveries increased by 1083% between 2017 and 2021. Experts say these figures are likely underreported. A few states, including Hawaii, Delaware, and New Jersey, have passed legislation prohibiting the use of 3D-printed firearms. Comprehensive federal laws prohibiting ghost guns are still lacking.
The rise in crimes committed with these slapped-together weapons drew the attention of the Biden Administration, which updated federal rules last year to say “buy build shoot” kits available online qualify as “firearms” under the 1968 Gun Control Act.
What Sceptics of the bill say?
Gun rights activists have challenged the changes, claiming they violate the Second Amendment. In August of this year, the Supreme Court temporarily reinstated Biden’s ghost gun regulation, though its long-term legal future remains unknown.
However, Second Amendment supporters aren’t the only ones who have objected to regulation aimed at 3D printed firearms. Some civil libertarians and free speech experts have argued that prohibiting 3D-printed firearms, or at least the designs for them, would violate the First Amendment because the instructions are simply lines of text and code. That was one of the arguments made by Defense Distributed founder and self-identified crypto-anarchist Cody Wilson when he sued the State Department in 2015 to keep the blueprints for the company’s “liberator” 3D printed gun online. Defense Distributed eventually reached an agreement with the Trump Administration to settle the lawsuit.
Cody Wilson, a one-time sceptic, whose company also produces and sells computer-controlled milling machines capable of producing firearms in a matter of hours, commented on this issue that he “strongly supports” Sen. Rajkumar’s proposed background check requirement.
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