3D Printing

The Framers Did Not Know From 3D-Printed Guns. So How Can They Be Covered by the Second Amendment?

A former congressman suggests that homemade plastic guns can be banned because they did not exist in 1791.



Steve Israel, who tried to restrict 3D-printed guns when he was a congressman, is not happy that the Justice Department has abandoned efforts to censor the software required to produce such weapons. In a New York Times op-ed piece, Israel urges his former colleagues to pass legislation aimed at putting this genie back in the bottle. Specifically, the New York Democrat wants Congress to require that "printable weapons have components necessary for their operation that make them detectable." He addresses possible constitutional objections with this closing non sequitur: "After all, the people who used quills to write the Second Amendment couldn't comprehend that one day guns would be produced by 3-D printers."

The Framers probably did not anticipate stun guns or semi-automatic pistols either, but that does not mean the Second Amendment has no bearing on the constitutionality of attempts to ban or restrict them. "Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search," the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, "the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding." The Court reiterated that point in 2016, rejecting the premise that a state ban on stun guns raised no Second Amendment issues because Tasers did not exist in 1791.

Israel also mentions the "constitutional free-speech right to share computer codes" asserted by Defense Distributed, the company whose software the DOJ recently agreed to allow online without the threat of criminal charges. But he offers no response to that claim. Presumably he would point out that the people who used quills to write the First Amendment couldn't comprehend that one day a network of computers would make it possible to communicate electronically with people around the world, let alone that the exchanges might include instructions for making stuff at home with widely available equipment.

By Israel's logic, Americans have a right to own flintlock rifles, to circulate literature printed on hand presses, and to prevent the government from rummaging through their diaries and personal papers for no good reason. But the Second Amendment does not cover plastic guns made on 3D printers, the First Amendment does not protect speech on the internet, and the Fourth Amendment has nothing to say about the security of information stored on computers, because the Framers knew nothing of such things.

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  1. I never understood the whole “How can they understand modern guns” nonsense when discussing the founding fathers.

    He doesn’t seem to realize that they didn’t. They likely KNEW they didn’t know what would come in the future and left a lot of the Amendments very open in terms of protections.

    They didn’t know about television or radio, either. Yet he isn’t calling for those to be censored.

    Well, yet.

    1. And the Founding Fathers definitely knew about this stuff. I watched that Quantum Leap episode

    2. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online.
      My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 2o hours a week.
      I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do …..>> http://1kdaily.us

      1. Arg! I must’ve gotten my facts, unknown unknowns damned lies, and statistics mixed up.

    3. The existence of the FCC and its powers to regulate content is predicated on the Founding Fathers having no knowledge of broadcast communications and therefore they operate under compromised free speech/press protections. That argument has not only been used, but accepted for over a hundred years.

    4. Such arguments are obvious nonsense. The founders were bright enough to know that weapons technology had changed in the past and could be expected to change further in the future. That’s why they deliberately chose the generic term “arms”, instead of any specific weapon. Failure to understand something this simple makes it impossible for me to take anyone advancing the “flintlock muskets!” argument seriously

  2. Fuck this guy

  3. The Founding Fathers were at least smarter than this jackass in that they knew they didn’t know everything and therefore left people alone as much as possible. Nobody’s less qualified to run other people’s lives than somebody who thinks he’s qualified to run other people’s lives.

    1. This Israel genius somehow overlooked that the Founding Fathers put an amendment process in place because they knew citizens in the future might want to modify the powers delegated to the Federal government.

      1. Amending the Constitution is too onerous. Can’t we just ban stuff based me thinking it’s a good idea?

        1. And we should ban it through executive order since it’s easier to convince one person your idea is valid than it is to convince hundreds.

  4. I think Bill Weld has a new campaign adviser

    1. I know that’s right.

  5. It’s interesting, because it seems to admit a fundamental distinction in how these people think about the government. The old idea of the government controlling certain things, or of the government allowing only certain things.

    This is a major divide that I fear goes undiscussed in a lot of these arguments, and this divide needs to be made explicit because meaningful discourse cannot occur without dealing with this issue first.

    1. Good lord man! If we took the time to understand each other’s underlying assumptions, there’d be no time for poo-flinging contests.

      1. Back in the day, they used to be pissing contests, but then someone complained about the sexism inherent in that sport.

    2. It’s such a dumb argument on its face, ‘x’ didn’t exist in 1791 so we’re free to ban it.

      1. And I think it’s because their argument isn’t that “it didn’t exist then, so it should be banned.” Its “it didn’t exist, and so the government hasn’t allowed it yet.”

        If I’m not clear, I find the latter belief to be repugnant, but that seems to be how many view the government. A teller of what’s allowed.

        1. The latter is the grade school explanation of government. Many seem to stick with this view throughout adulthood.

      2. It’s such a dumb argument on its face, ‘x’ didn’t exist in 1791 so we’re free to ban it.

        As I clumsily pointed out above, “we don’t know what we don’t know” was, at least in part or in some minds or whatever, a justification for the Gulf War.

        1. I thought the gulf war had something to do with Saddam demanding something like ten billion dollars from his neighbors ‘or else’.

          1. My bad, War in Iraq. I must be getting old.

  6. Presumably he would point out that the people who used quills to write the First Amendment couldn’t comprehend that one day a network of computers would make it possible to communicate electronically with people around the world…

    And no doubt certain lawmakers would be thrilled with the ability to limit that right, as well.

  7. Neither did Steve Israel exist in 1791. You know where I’m going with this…

  8. Israel urges his former colleagues to pass legislation aimed at putting this genie back in the bottle.

    3D printed guns aren’t magical. It’s more like putting Shr?dinger’s cat in a bag so you can declare it dead.

    1. It’s just resting…

  9. Of course, the joke is on this idiot because a purely ‘plastic’ or even ‘printed’ firearm is more likely to blow off the users hand than do anything else. Not to mention that, last I saw, you’re still going to need a steel barrel no matter what.

    He might want to look into banning lathes.

    1. Only if you get your news about them from the UK or Aussie cop shops. They deliberately blew up a few Liberators to scare people. The ones made by the designers work fine with low-pressure rounds like .380ACP or .22LR in an all-plastic ABS barrel- so long as you only use the barrel once. And they have quick-detach barrels for exactly that reason. The Washbear pepperbox revolver even had an all-plastic cylinder that could hold 6 .22s.

      They’re only intended as tech demonstrators until the carbon fiber and metal printers become commonplace, anyway.

    2. Steel barrels can be sold with any notification to a government entity.

    3. Eh, I think of them as similar to the one-shot guns that the Allied Forces gave to the French during WWII. Sure, they can’t easily be used repeatedly, but you use your one bullet to shoot a guy with a gun and then use his gun.

    4. Not to mention that, last I saw, you’re still going to need a steel barrel no matter what.

      I remain unconvinced that a ceramic or cement couldn’t work. Certainly not competitive on a weight, ease of manufacture (cost), or durability basis, but the given situation/design constraints arbitrarily (as JesseAz notes, steel tubes can’t be effectively regulated) require all the best options to be off the table.

    5. The biggest concern they have about “plastic” guns is that they won’t see them on metal detectors. So, going back to Israel’s quote… I’m pretty sure that the people who wrote the 2nd amendment with quills also didn’t anticipate the use of metal detectors to check whether people had guns.

      But, practically speaking, you still need a steel firing pin. And your ammunition is still metal.

      I’m pretty sure that they can just tell the TSA that (even when they don’t see a gun in the xray) they should be wary of carry-on bags that contain 22LR ammo and a nail.

      1. The TSA misses 90% of actual guns with several inches of steel in the barrel and chamber, so there’s not much danger of them spotting a little 22LR cartridge.

  10. In 1791 any blacksmith with enough skill could go ahead and make a gun or even a cannon with a permission slip from the state. Anybody with saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal could whip up a batch of gunpowder also without permission. Why would the Founders give a crap how easy or difficult a gun is to make?

    1. without

    2. A piece of pipe, a 12 gauge shell and hit the end with a hammer. primative but it works and dangerous

  11. The progs will grudgingly put up with the plastic guns until they become so ubiquitous that used ones start finding their way into our oceans, and a whale washes up and starts busting caps at its rescuers.

  12. The framers probably DID know that gun technology would improve. They weren’t writing in a static vacuum of changelessness. A couple of the framers were actual bona fide inventor dudes.

    The idea of plastic 3D printed guns may have been beyond them, but the idea of easily manufacturing guns in the home would not have been right at home in their conceptual framework. Hell, the big breakthrough of their day was MASS manufacturing of guns! Individuals making guns at home was already a thing, it was just that one needed to be somewhat knowledgeable and skilled to do it.

    The cheap single shot concealable firearm made in the home is not unknown in history, and decent firearm museums even have a section for them. A collector friend of mine had several of those beauties.

    1. the idea of easily manufacturing guns in the home would not have been right at home in their conceptual framework

      I believe this is what is called in the technical nomenclature a “reverse Trump”.

    2. The low/no-skill production of things was probably not something they expected.

      But I think the bigger one was how America would transform into a majority-urban country where gun ownership wasn’t common.

      It’s a bit ironic, but if a society has a sufficiently high level of gun ownership and active use, then you actually need less regulation because it’ll just be part of the culture. You only really start needing a lot of regulation when something slips out of the norm.

    3. According the Foxfire books on mountain crafts, colonial era farmers collected nitrates from cattle urine, collected sulfur from sulfur springs, and made their own charcoal, to make gun powder.
      Colonial era mountain blacksmiths went from repairing Pennsylvania rifles (made in small workshops mostly in York County, Pennsylvania) to building their own copies.

      Colonial era militia regulations in the the Watauga Association and State of Franklin defined what was regulation equipment for a militiaman/soldier. Militia regulations did not ban bird guns or rabbit guns or deer rifles or weapons kept for self defense, Militia regulations required possession of a military quality weapon. The idea of banning guns owned for other traditional and lawful purposes was never part of militia regulations.

  13. Well man, what about the 1st amendment?

    ….or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

    Now congress meant a printing press and since the internets and what have you don’t come from a printing press, it has to be regulated and what not, or whatever congress says.

    That’s according to the 1st amendment.

  14. You know who else’s national constitution failed to provide adequate protection against future violent maniacs with guns…?

    1. Kerensky?

      1. They never expected the Bolshevik inquisition.

        1. Or American intervention. Perhaps 2016 was payback for 1917.

          1. They must’ve realized that the digital timer they were using to keep track of the years elapsed didn’t have the ability to show triple digits.

    2. Whose hasnt?

      1. door to Ravenclaw common room swings open

  15. Anyway, if you think this is bad, just wait till you’re living in a trailer park and a squad of National Guardsmen come by and say you have to let them crash on the floor of your double-wide because it wasn’t made out of wood with hand tools.

    1. Brick, don’t forget brick. Those brick house are OK.

    2. My dream is to go the Supreme Court with a 3rd Amendment based constitutional complaint.

      1. With Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter blaring in the background.

      2. Trust me, it’s not worth it. Sadly, it was only around the seventh year of court proceedings, after having sold off my double-wide, my orphan laborers and both my tibiae to pay the lawyers, that I realized that the mantle of “paladin of mobile home property rights” is not adequate ROI for arm-wrestling with Uncle Sam.

  16. Come on Israel. Prog harder. Only firearms manufactured prior to 1791 are protected.

    1. OK, trebuchets it is. And Halberds. And the odd Napoleon 12 pounder. How thick are the stone walls of your castle?

      1. I have a star fort.

  17. The Constitution is crap. It doesn’t prohibit the government from initiating force.

  18. The gun may be printed but the ammunition is not and should be detectable.

  19. So all the laws this guy voted on are null and void because he did not use parchment and a quill, right?

    1. Don’t forget that the inks we use today didn’t exist back then. Everyone forgets about the 200 years of advancements in ink technology.

      1. They never expected the span of ink acquisition.

        1. lol

    2. The Xerox machine is to the First Amendment what a machine gun is to the Second Amendment.

  20. “A former congressman suggests that homemade plastic guns can be banned because they did not exist in 1791.”

    I hear (or read) this kind of nonsense over and over again from leftists.

    I don’t know what make them think that they can selectively apply such a standard only to the 2nd Amendment without it also being applied to all the rest of them.

    1. Hopefully that’s one of the reasons that he’s a former congress-critter.

  21. Here, it’s very simple…
    If we can all agree that:
    1. Self defense against any unlawful attack is a basic human right.
    2. That as a basic human right, self defense is and should always be considered a Civil Right of the People and thus the exercise of that right must be immune from restriction, infringement, licensing or taxation by Government at any level.
    3. That the Civil Rights of the People are not subject to the approval of the Majority Opinion and belong to every Individual regardless of their social status.
    4. That any infringement, restriction, licensing requirements or taxation levied on the free exercise of a Civil Right is a violation of that right.
    5. That any law, policy or rule that prohibits or discourages the free exercise of any Civil Right is an infringement on that right.
    6. That if a law, policy or rule that prohibits or discourages a Citizen from legally acquiring the tools, weapons or means to freely exercise their Civil Rights, then their rights have been infringed.
    -Then it follows that those who advocate for the preservation of the right of the People to keep and bear arms are, in fact, Civil Rights advocates. It also follows that those who oppose the right of the People to keep and bear arms are against the People’s civil rights.
    We have a word for people who advocate for or try to use the force of law to infringe on the civil rights of others: we call them Bigots. ?

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