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CEO DATELINE – Firearms industry group says fear over 3D printing is hype

Aug. 6, 2018
By James Cullum

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The threat posed by the 3D printing of firearms has been exaggerated, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The 12,000-member trade association for the firearms industry hasn’t taken a stance on recent legislation proposed by Democrats in Congress to block the public release of blueprints for making plastic guns on 3D printers. However, NSSF says 3-D printing is expensive, the product is prone to break and that criminals have easier ways to get firearms. 

“We’ve been inundated with media calls to understand the issue,” said Michael Bazinet, NSSF public affairs director. “We haven’t taken a position on any piece of legislation, but there are so many blueprints out there right now anyway.” 

Last week, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to block a 2015 U.S. government settlement with Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation. The settlement would have allowed Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed to release blueprints of 3-D guns, including the Liberator, a single-shot plastic gun that has no metal or serial number. The issue has dominated headlines and prompted 19 state attorney generals to file lawsuits halting the release over the fear that terrorists could wreak havoc by smuggling undetectable 3-D-printable handguns into secure locations.   

“Those complaining that street gangs will be setting up computer printing labs to produce untraceable firearms aren’t dealing in reality,” said Larry Keane, NSSF senior vice president for government and public affairs, in a recent blog post. “Criminals have easier, cheaper sources. There have been no reports of a criminal using 3D printing to manufacture a firearm and the technology and equipment that would be required to produce one of these firearms would be prohibitively expensive for criminals. Criminals obtain their firearms from the black market, theft or associates.”

The National Rifle Association last week released a statement noting that undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for three decades, largely due to legislation it supported. 

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said that preventing the release of the blueprints will save lives. 

“The idea of untraceable, undetectable guns available to anyone, even violent criminals and domestic abusers, with the click of a mouse is utterly terrifying,” she said in a statement. 

The issue will be reheard in court in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Aug. 10.