Imagine this: the convicted domestic abuser next door tries to buy a gun. He’s turned down because he fails his background check. When he gets home, he opens up his browser, and in half an hour he’s printing out his own undetectable, fully functional plastic gun, with no background check and no record of his purchase.
As of August 1, it will be a reality in America — unless we are able to stop it.
Due to a settlement between the State Department and Defense Distributed — a Texas based designer of 3D guns — felons, domestic abusers, terrorists, those adjudicated too mentally ill to own guns and any other person unable to legally purchase firearms will be able to print one at home. Depending on the printer, they can be untraceable and plastic, or they can be metal. People will be able to make anything from novelty guns to AR-15s. And we will never know — until it is too late.
It gets worse: this requires a legislative fix immediately, and the House of Representatives session adjourned for August recess on Thursday. In other words, there won’t be a fix this month.
It is not hyperbole to say that this could mean the end of our ability to have meaningful gun violence prevention in America.
There are those who will say that 3D printing of guns is not a major issue — that it’s unpractical or too expensive, but many people said the same thing about tablets, e-readers, cell phones, laptops, home printers, computers and cars. And in 2013, for a printer that then cost less than $2,000, it was possible to make a plastic gun that successfully fired at least 9 shots.
Does anybody think the technology is worse or more expensive than it was five years ago? It’s not. You can now buy a 3D printer for less than $100. You could buy a printer fully capable of producing this gun for less than $1,000. The gun itself cost just $25 in materials to make — in 2013.
Imagine the damage one of these guns, even if it was only capable of firing one shot, could do aboard a plane. Or in a government office. Or in your child’s classroom.
This is part of the larger problem of ghost guns. These guns are made from DIY kits, which have no serial number, require no background check and are currently fully legal due to loopholes in our laws. An internet search on ghost guns tells a terrifying tale: headlines of gangs stocking up on these untraceable weapons. Of states with strict gun laws like Massachusetts confiscating hundreds of these guns. Of a tide of guns we don’t know are out there and we don’t know how to trace.
And we’re about to make it so much worse.
Gun violence prevention organizations — Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence — filed a lawsuit to get an injunction to keep these downloadable guns from becoming legal, but on Friday a judge denied their motion to halt the sale of these deadly weapons.
Partnered with The Newtown Action Alliance and Fred Guttenberg of Orange Ribbons for Jaime, the No Rifle Association (NoRA), my organization, is helping to build a coalition of state attorneys general to also fight in court. We hope that we will be able to keep us safe long enough to enact a permanent legislative solution to this menace.
But without the public electing a Congress with the backbone to stand up to the gun industry and drawing a line in the sand at guns on demand for everyone, anytime, it’s unlikely to happen.
I’m going to be fighting this — in the courts and at the voting booth. I encourage everyone who cares about public safety to do the same.