Bill Nelson takes aim at 3-D printing of ‘undetectable’ creation of guns

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With law enforcement and security officials worldwide growing increasingly alarmed, U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Bill Nelson are calling for a ban in the U.S. specifically on the design, manufacture, sale, import, export and possession of so-called 3-D plastic guns.

Schumer and Nelson said a Texas student’s recent invention of a working pistol using an in-home 3-D printer sends out a signal that anyone, anywhere, anytime, soon will be able to make a gun that’s capable of killing and yet undetectable by metal detectors.

The two lawmakers announced they have filed the legislation aimed at stopping the spread of the home-made weapon where Department of Homeland Security officials already have labeled the 3-D plastic gun a serious threat to public safety.

In mid-May it was reported that the student from Texas invented a plastic pistol that he said anyone could make with a 3-D printer like his.  Police in Australia reportedly produced a similar weapon using computer printing technology that’s expected to be widely available within three years to just about anyone for around $2,000.

Previously, 3-D printers have been used in industrial production to make such things as plastic models and prototypes.  The industrial printers sent out streams of melted plastic, layer by layer, to produce an object.  The 3-D printer the Texas student used to make the plastic gun costs about $10,000, according to CBS, which reported he then put the design data on his website and more than 100,000 people downloaded the data before the government shut down the site.

“With continuing advancements in technology, it is imperative that we renew the ban and take the necessary steps to keep people as safe as possible,” the two Senators they wrote in a letter to their colleagues seeking Senate co-sponsors.  “Extending this ban will give law enforcement the tools that they need to keep undetectable firearms and magazines from slipping past security checkpoints and off of our streets.”

Their legislation not only would ban home-made 3-D plastic guns, but also extend a Reagan-era prohibition on any other “undetectable” firearm.  President Reagan signed the first bill dealing with undetectable weapons in 1988, and Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush renewed it.  But the current ban on undetectable firearms is scheduled to expire in six months.

On the House side, a revamped Undetectable Firearms Act has also been filed by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington, NY).  It makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm or magazine that is homemade and not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an x-ray machine. The reauthorization would extend the life of the bill for another 10 years from the date of enactment.

Below is the text of the bill and the letter Sens. Schumer and Nelson have sent their Senate colleagues seeking cosponsors: 

Dear Colleagues,

We invite you to co-sponsor the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act of 2013.  The Undetectable Firearms Act was originally signed into law by President Reagan in 1988, and was renewed under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. 

The Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act of 2013 updates the 1988 law that bans undetectable firearms and their components by extending the ban on plastic guns and including a ban of homemade, 3-D printed, plastic high-capacity magazines.  Specifically, this important legislation makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm, receiver, or magazine that is homemade and is not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an x-ray machine.

The current ban on undetectable firearms is scheduled to expire on December 9, 2013.  The reauthorization would extend the law for another ten years from the date of enactment.  With continuing advancements in technology, it is imperative that we renew the ban and take the necessary steps to keep people as safe as possible. Extending this ban will give law enforcement the tools that they need to keep undetectable firearms and magazines from slipping past security checkpoints and off of our streets.

If you have any questions about this important legislation or would like to co-sponsor, please contact…

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.