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D.C. Legislator Moves To Ban Guns Made With 3D Printers

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A Texas group succesfully created and test-fired a gun made with a 3D printer this week.
A Texas group succesfully created and test-fired a gun made with a 3D printer this week.

It sounds almost impossible, but news from Texas this week proves otherwise—making a functional gun using little more than a 3D printer is a reality. And though the technology is still expensive and not widely available, one legislator wants to make sure that D.C. residents don't start printing guns for themselves.

Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) introduced a bill Tuesday that would prohibit the creation of guns with 3D printers. During the council's monthly legislative session, Wells said that he worried that the 3D printers could be used to produce guns that would sneak around existing regulations on the ownership of firearms and pose a threat to public safety.

“Digital manufacturing technologies hold a lot of exciting potential to make manufacturing more affordable and more accessible. But in this respect, the technology is fast outpacing the laws. An undetectable firearm constructed on your computer may sound like science fiction, but unfortunately, it’s already here and our laws have never contemplated this scenario. These weapons create a significant and immediate threat to public safety," said Wells.

The printers work by layering plastic or other materials to create three-dimensional shapes. The Texas company that produced and succesfully fired a handgun this week said that it would upload the schematics for anyone with a 3D printer to use. The gun has 16 parts, 15 of which are plastic. The printer itself cost $8,000.

"The end product is a cheap, functional and undetectable weapon that can be produced with nothing more than a home computer and 3D-printer," said Wells, who said he would use a future hearing to more broadly discuss the dangers of the guns.

Wells' bill is similar to one being promoted by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would amend an existing federal law on guns made out of undetectable materials to include those guns made using 3D printers. That law expires in December 2013, though it has been renewed before.

Under current D.C. law, guns—which are not sold within city limits—have to be registered with the Metropolitan Police Department.

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