Update: Dan Lieberman, press secretary at Sen. Yee's office, issued this statement to IBTimes: "While Senator Yee is looking into the matter of guns manufactured by 3D printers, he is not, nor does he intend, to push for the registration of 3D printers. The quote in the CBS piece was referring to the guns lacking background checks and serial numbers."
In the wake of the first fully-functional 3-D printed gun, more lawmakers are proposing regulations to prevent these weapons from reaching dangerous hands. Sen. Leland Yee (D-Calif.) went a step beyond other proposals by calling for laws that would track the 3-D printers themselves as well as people with access to them, out of concern that someone who uses the technology could create a gun.
While Yee didn’t have specific details of how the legislation on 3-D printers would work, he stated that background checks, mandatory serial numbers and even a registration process could all be included.
“Terrorists can make these guns and do some horrible things to an individual and then walk away scot-free, and that is something that is really dangerous,” Yee told CBS Sacramento.
Yee joins two other Democrats, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in leading a leading a charge to regulate 3-D-printed guns. Israel and Schumer called for a renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which expires this year, and to add new language that bans plastic guns created with 3-D printing.
After successfully firing the first 3-D printed gun last week, named the "Liberator," designer Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed uploaded the blueprints online for anyone to download for free. This prompted action from the State Department, who ordered the files to be removed after plans for the Liberator had been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.
While politicians like Yee, Israel and Schumer maintain that this technology is dangerous, supporters of the Liberator say restricting the gun violates Second Amendment rights, while trying to censor the blueprints from the Internet infringes on the First Amendment.
Others say that regulation on 3-D printers like Yee proposed isn’t eve possible. The RepRap project, for example, involves creating self-replicating 3-D printers. For the same reason that 3-D-printed guns are untraceable, so are 3-D printers made from a 3-D printer.
At the same time, the White House is expanding investment in 3-D printing technology. Last week, the Obama administration pledged $200 million for a competition to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes. This competition is a continuation of a pilot competition in 2012, which awarded $30 million to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio.
3-D printing, the layman’s term for additive manufacturing, is a process where a device creates objects from a digital blueprint by layering micrometer-thin layers of plastic on top of each other. The technology has been around for over 20 years, but is now affordable for average consumers. Some modern 3-D printers cost less than $1,000, which adds to the fears that they will be used by dangerous people to print guns.
It took an $8,000 printer to create the Liberator, though Defense Distributed plans to adapt gun designs for cheaper 3D printers.
Should politicians regulate 3-D printers, or just ban 3-D printed guns? Or are attempts to do either examples of government over stepping its authority?