By: Tabetha Soberdash

The technology of 3D printing is bringing to reality things that once were only viewed as possible in science fiction movies.[1] Simply put, 3D printing is “a manufacturing process for the rapid production of three-dimensional parts directly from computer models.”[2] It works by depositing layer upon layer of materials until the desirable three-dimensional object is created.[3] As such, by a simple input of a design and materials, the technology can print customizable, three-dimensional products at the push of a button.[4] The technology has shown to be beneficial in many aspects, from allowing for rapid prototyping to reducing transport costs.[5] Therefore, many industries have began to utilize the technology, such as aerospace, medicine, and education.[6] As the technology provides the convenience of creating fully customizable products in the privacy of one’s own homes, many private individuals have also started utilizing the technology as well. [7]

With all of the benefits and advantages that come with the simple purchase of a 3D printer, one type of creatable product has found its way to becoming a high source of controversy and debate: firearms.[8] With a 3D printer, a design, and a filament, an individual can create a fully operational weapon without the need to pass a background check.[9] In addition, these firearms can be made out of plastic materials, making it harder to detect them.[10] Further, as they are home-made firearms, they do not contain genuine serial numbers, allowing for a cumulation of untraceable firearms in the country.[11] Many fear that criminals could take advantage of this to commit or attempt to commit additional crimes, and time is showing that fear to be more than just a mere possibility.[12] For example, a man was arrested in 2017 after officers heard three shots in woods in Texas.[13] Upon arrest, it was found that the man had 3D printed his firearm after he had failed the background check necessary to purchase one.[14] After making the firearm, he proceeded into the woods with “what federal attorneys called a ‘hit list’ of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including their office and home addresses.”[15]

In response to this public safety risk, many legislative actions, both federal and state, have been presented in attempt to provide for more regulation to support gun safety.[16] One such action occurred on June 13, 2019 when the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019 was introduced in Congress.[17] If passed, the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019 would prohibit the distribution of 3D printer plans for the printing of firearms.[18] However, it is facing opposition by those who are concerned with how limiting distribution of 3D printer plans would affect individual liberties, particularly those given by the First Amendment.[19] Opponents against the bill argue that code and 3D planner blueprints should be a protected form of free speech under the First Amendment, as such limiting their distribution infringes upon the freedom of speech.[20] Stuck between upholding individual liberties and pursuing public safety, it has yet to be seen whether the substantial risk of crimes occurring with 3D printed firearms will be enough to promote Congressional votes in favor of the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of

image source: https://www.npr.org/2019/02/14/694641578/texas-man-with-3d-printed-gun-and-hit-list-of-lawmakers-sentenced-to-8-years

[1]See Jeffrey T. Leslie, COMMENT: The Internet and Its Discontents: 3-D Printing, The Commerce Clause, And A Possible Solution to an Inevitable Problem, 17 S.M.U. Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 195, 195 (2014).

[2]Emanuel Sachs et al., Three Dimensional Printing: Rapid Tooling and Prototypes Directly from CAD Representation, 39 CIRP Annals – Manufacturing Tech. 27, 28 (1990).

[3]See Jessica Berkowitz, ARTICLE: Computer-Aided Destruction: Regulating 3D-Printed Firearms Without Infringing on Individual Liberties, 33 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 53, 56 (2018).

[4]See id. at 58.

[5]See Emanuel Sachs et al., Three Dimensional Printing: Rapid Tooling and Prototypes Directly from CAD Representation, 39 CIRP Annals – Manufacturing Tech. 27, 28 (1990).

[6]See John F. Sargent, Jr., & R.X. Schwartz, Cong. Research Serv., R45852, 3D Printing: Overview, Impacts, and the

Federal Role 1 (2019).

[7] See Berkowitz, supra note 3 at 66.

[8]See Berkowitz, supra note 3 at 53–54.

[9]See id. at 56–57.

[10]See 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019, S. 1831, 116th Cong. § 2 (as introduced in Senate, June 13, 2019); 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019, H.R. 3265, 116th Cong. § 2 (as introduced in the House, June 13, 2019).

[11]See id.

[12]See id.

[13]See Matthew S. Schwartz, Texas Man With 3D-Printed Gun And ‘Hit List’ Of Lawmakers Sentenced To 8 Years, NPR (Feb. 14, 2019), https://www.npr.org/2019/02/14/694641578/texas-man-with-3d-printed-gun-and-hit-list-of-lawmakers-sentenced-to-8-years.

[14]See id.

[15]Id.

[16]See Matthew S. Schwartz, Texas Man With 3D-Printed Gun And ‘Hit List’ Of Lawmakers Sentenced To 8 Years, NPR (Feb. 14, 2019), https://www.npr.org/2019/02/14/694641578/texas-man-with-3d-printed-gun-and-hit-list-of-lawmakers-sentenced-to-8-years; 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019, S. 1831, 116th Cong. § 2 (as introduced in Senate, June 13, 2019); 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019, H.R. 3265, 116th Cong. § 2 (as introduced in the House, June 13, 2019).

[17]See 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019, S. 1831, 116th Cong. § 2 (as introduced in Senate, June 13, 2019); 3D Printed Gun Safety Act of 2019, H.R. 3265, 116th Cong. § 2 (as introduced in the House, June 13, 2019).

[18]See id.

[19]See id.

[20]See Berkowitz, supra note 3 at 72–75.

css.php