Q: What is a 3-D printed gun and how is it created?
A: The firearms are usually made out of ABS plastic — the stuff that Lego pieces are made of — and are created using special printers that can cost thousands of dollars. Unlike metal firearms that have magazines that can usually hold several bullets, 3-D guns can hold a bullet or two and then must be manually reloaded. There is no mandate for licensing 3-D guns and they can be created without a serial number, making them untraceable by law enforcement.
Q: How did the debate over 3-D printed guns begin?
A: In 2013, Cody Wilson, who owns Defense Distributed, posted plans online for creating a 3-D printed handgun he called the Liberator. The blueprints were downloaded nearly 100,000 times in one week before the State Department under President Barack Obama ordered it be taken down, arguing it violated federal export laws since some of the blueprints were downloaded by people outside the United States. It would be a violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations that limit when and how Americans can sell weapons overseas, the government argued.
Wilson's website also sought to offer blueprints for creating AR-style long guns with 3-D printers.
For several years, Wilson has been engaged in a legal battle with the State Department, saying its decision violated his First Amendment right to free speech.
In June, the Trump State Department reversed course and gave the go-ahead to Wilson and his company to post the blueprints online.
Wilson lauded the decision on Twitter and his website noted it that he would begin posting blueprints online Aug. 1. The government also agreed to pay nearly $40,000 in legal fees that Wilson has accrued over the years.
Q: What has been the response from gun control advocates?
A: There's been strong pushback. "We will do everything in our power to make sure that untraceable downloadable guns remain nothing more than an idea. To those who want to see this dangerous concept become reality, all we have to say is this: Not on our watch," said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Many opponents have referred to 3-D printed guns as "ghost guns" because they lack serial numbers and owners do not need licenses. Further, concerns have been raised that these firearms could get onto planes because the 3-D guns are not metal and could go undetected.
Los Angeles Times