Rep. Israel Says He's After the Result of 3D Printed Weapons, Not 3D Printing Itself


I noted this in my December article on the brouhaha over 3D printing of "WikiWeapons," but Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who targeted plastic 3D weapon printing at a press conference set at a airport security post in Long Island, goes on the record at length with Forbes about what he is, and isn't, trying to do. He swears he isn't targeting the printing technology, merely a certain set of its products.

From the interview–the bold are Forbes's questions:

And you're not talking about some kind of digital rights management or other restrictions on 3D printers either?

Zero. We're not going there. You want to download the blueprint, we're not going near that. You want to buy a 3D printer and make something, buy a 3D printer and make something. But if you're going to download a blueprint for a plastic weapon that can be brought onto an airplane, there's a penalty to be paid.

Just for downloading it?

No, no, for actually manufacturing it. And we're not even going after manufacturers, either, but lone wolves, individuals.

I just want to be clear. I'm not seeking to regulate or reduce the use of 3D printers at all. This isn't about 3D printers. It's about the use of a 3D printer to manufacture a weapon that can't be detected by metal detectors….

Won't the real sticking point for this law be its enforcement? The whole idea of Defense Distributed is that the production of these weapons is distributed to living rooms and garages around the country and there's no centralized manufacturer to regulate….

There's no one hundred percent guarantee of one hundred percent enforcement, and there's never that guarantee with any law. What we're trying to do is make it clear that if you choose to construct a weapon or weapon component using a 3D printer, and it's homemade, you'll be subject to penalties. It's not a guarantee that everyone will be caught and prosecuted, but there has to be some penalty…..

One part of your legislation that you've emphasized a lot calls for a ban on the 3D printing of high-capacity magazines like the ones that Defense Distributed 3D-printed and tested in a video posted to YouTube over the last weekend. But there are lots of plastic magazines already for sale, and they're not covered by the current Undetectable Firearms Act.

Right. We won't go near those.

But isn't it tough differentiate between 3D-printed plastic magazines and plastic magazines created and sold by the usual manufacturers.

….we're talking to stakeholders, and working to create a distinction between that lone wolf and legitimate manufacturers of plastic clips. Plastic clips, I get that, I understand there's an advantage to them. The law will not go near that. I confess this is going to require further conversations.

…..In 1988 when the Undetectable Firearms Act was passed, the thought of replicating a gun with a 3D printer was a Star Trek episode, when it lapsed in 1998, maybe it was possible on day. In 2003 when it was reauthorized, it seemed maybe, we're close. Just in the past six months, six bullets were fired form a 3D-printed lower receiver and then 86 from a clip. So every week the technology gets faster, cheaper and more precise. And I just want to make sure we're being proactive, and not having to explain why we didn't act when something tragic happens.

That last statement of Israel's sums up sadly so much of the crummy legal processes of government that think acting with the motive of preventing tragedies covers a multitude of sins in logic, proportion, or constitutionality.

Reason on 3D weapon printing.