Guns scare some politicians. Some of those politicians can whip up hysteria with their misrepresentations of the truth. To those who know better, these falsehoods seem almost impossible to comprehend. Such is the case with the latest round of mass-panic about 3-D printed guns. The video below of Richard Blumenthal, a U.S. Senator, is the perfect example.
3-D printing is still a reasonably new technology. Firearms are not. It has never been illegal in this country for a citizen to make a firearm. There are many ways to do it. Qualified craftsmen can mill firearms from steel, and do. Others make parts from cast aluminum. There is even a cottage industry devoted to homemade plastic gun parts.
Yet all of these guns have metal components. Rifles, like the ones the esteemed senator from Connecticut is showing off in his image, incorporate several pounds of steel. So those who push the panic button over “undetectable” 3-D printed guns are, as the old saying goes, jumping the gun.
These facts, though, get distorted, wildly, when hysterics like Blumenthal pick up just enough of the relevant information to be dangerous.
The video, which begins with Blumenthal holding up an AR-15 type rifle, is devoted to how “undetectable” the guns are.
If you 3-D print an AR-15 receiver (the lower receiver) out of plastic, you will, indeed, have an undetectable piece of plastic. It isn’t going to fire a single round, though, without some other crucial parts.
The rifle will need a barrel. That’s made of steel. The upper receiver is typically aluminum. The pins are almost always steel, as is the trigger, hammer, and many other miscellaneous springs and parts.
Getting this gun past a metal detector would be all but impossible. That doesn’t stop Blumenthal from trying to scare his constituency.
To be fair to Blumenthal, the 3-D printed gun debate has, for years, centered on “The Liberator.” This gun has very few metal parts. It is a single shot pistol, and as big as a breadbox, and has no practical use. It is, for many, a proof of concept.
That said, The Liberator doesn’t fit Blumenthal’s rhetoric, either. It is detectable. The design has to comply with the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act. In fact, the design itself has this caveat written in:
“‘For the purposes of this subsection (The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988) – the term ‘firearm’ does not include the frame or receiver of any such weapon;’ Thus, you can legally print ONLY the frame entirely in plastic, even without 3.7 ounces of steel. Once the frame is finished, epoxy a 1.19×1.19×0.99″ block of steel in the 1.2×1.2×1.0″ hole in front of the trigger guard. Add the bottom cover over the metal if you don’t want it to show.-Once the epoxy has tried, the steel is no longer removable, and is an integral part of the frame. Now your gun has ~6 ounces of steel and is thus considered a ‘detectable’ firearm. So now you can print all the other parts.”
By virtue of its design, The Liberator (a single-shot which fires a .380 ACP cartridge) cannot be used for a “mass shooting,” which is Blumenthal’s go-to scenario for scaring Americans.
What Blumenthal fails to mention is the cost associated with the printers that can print even these few plastic parts. They are astronomical. Prohibitive. Illegal guns, those already on the black market, can be had for a fraction of the price, and are illegally bought and sold every day in this country.