Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said today that the law banning "undetectable" guns that include weapons made of thermoplastics on 3D printers is about to expire and called for efforts to extend and even tighten restrictions on the guns.
The Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, first announced by Schumer in May, aims to extend the 1988 ban on undetectable firearms to any gun or receiver (the upper boy of a gun) that would not be detectable by walk-through metal detectors or would not generate an accurately shaped image on an x-ray machine.
The existing Undetectable Firearms Act expires on Dec. 9. Once that happens, it will be legal to print, sell or carry a 3D plastic gun like any other gun, Schumer said.
Sens. Patrick Leahy of (D-VT) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.
"If the legislation is not renewed, individuals will be able to easily carry a 3D plastic gun through a metal detector and gain access to an airplane, school, sporting event, courthouse or other government buildings," Schumer said in a statement.
Under his planned legislation, it would be illegal to carry guns made of undetectable polymers, such as the Liberator, which became the first 3D printed gun earlier this year. Defense Distributed, the company that developed the Liberator 3D printed gun, released a YouTube video demonstrating the gun being test fired - all in the name of the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms.
The CAD drawings for the Liberator, which could be used on 3D printers, have seen more than 100,000 downloads.
Schumer said the Liberator's CAD blueprint allows for a piece of metal that can be easily removed and plays no functional role but renders the gun legal; bullets can be fired from the gun even though it is made entirely of plastic.
Last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) published videos demonstrating how some plastic models of the Liberator were able to fire up to eight rounds, while others exploded on the first round; the success of the weapon depended on the polymers and printers used.
Schumer raised alarm bells, saying anyone with $1,000 and an internet connection can access those CAD files and make their own guns, making it too easy to bypass security at airports, sporting events or any other venue that relies on metal detectors or x-ray machines for security.
"We are looking at a world in which anyone with a little bit of cash can bring an undetectable gun, that can fire multiple bullets, anywhere - including planes, government buildings, sporting events and schools," Schumer said in a statement. "3D printers are a miraculous technology that have the potential to revolutionize manufacturing, but we need to make sure they are not being used to make deadly, undetectable weapons.
"By attaching an extension of this bill to one of the several must pass pieces of legislation, we can prevent an explosion of these silent killers," he said.
Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.