California legislators are leading the charge against the much-talked-about 3D printed gun. Senator Leland Yee (D) wants to introduce a new bill that makes it illegal for anybody to use 3D printers to manufacture guns or gun components.
“While I am as impressed as anyone with 3-D printing technology and I believe it has amazing possibilities, we must ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences,” Yee said. “I plan to introduce legislation that will ensure public safety and stop the manufacturing of guns that are invisible to metal detectors and that can be easily made without a background check.”
Yee’s approach is somewhat unorthodox. Rather than making the possession of 3D guns illegal, Yee is attempting to criminalize the creation of 3D guns. If passed, the bill would put much of the impetus on the owners of 3D printers to monitor the activities of their customers.
It’s worth mentioning that 3D printed guns are already in complicated legal territory. The Untraceable Firearm Act makes it illegal for anybody to own untraceable firearms, so owning a 3D printed gun would likely be illegal with or without Yee’s bill. Still, Yee’s bill might be enough to persuade public 3D printing services to closely monitor customers to ensure that nobody is printing 3D guns, which might cut down on the number of 3D guns in the state.
It’s also a bit difficult to enforce. If somebody is caught with a 3D printed gun, it would be difficult to prove that the person created the gun and didn’t just buy it from somebody else. And considering that it’s virtually impossible to monitor somebody in the privacy of his own home, this bill will mostly affect public 3D printing services and 3D printing distribution companies.
Additionally, this bill could become completely redundant. Rep. Steve Israel (D, NY) is trying to push new legislation through Congress that would update the Untraceable Firearm Act to include modern weapons like 3D printed firearms.
Yee's bill might get shot down simply by virtue of the fact that it adds unnecessary red tape on top of something that's already illegal.