In case you missed it, Americans are up against yet another imminent doomsday scenario. If you weren’t already killed off by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, or by the Trump tax cuts, or by the repeal of net neutrality, or by Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, we’re now told that you will certainly be killed by 3-D printed firearms.
In 2013, Cody Wilson and an organization called Defense Distributed released plans for the first fully 3-D printable gun: The Liberator. The design was named after the eponymous sheet metal pistol that the Allies airdropped behind enemy lines during WWII to arm resistance fighters. That gun was crudely made and unreliable, but it was far more successful as a propaganda point. In Nazi-controlled France, where private gun ownership was illegal, anyone could secretly have a gun. Even worse, they could use that gun to get their hands on a better gun.
Wilson’s plan was similar. Outside the Defense Distributed headquarters, Wilson is installing a tombstone etched with the words “American Gun Control.” The point is well taken. As gun control advocates look for new ways to chip away at the protections guaranteed in the Second Amendment, the Liberator undermines all of that. How can gun control possibly work when Americans can use a 3-D printer — now available for as low as $100 — to build their own firearms in the comfort of their homes?
The Obama administration used an obscure regulation governing military arms exports to force the Liberator designs off the internet. They reasoned that sharing the blueprint to build a gun online, where it could be downloaded by anyone on earth, was just as dangerous as exporting a machine gun or missile launcher overseas. But the fact that not one Liberator has been used in a crime, despite being downloaded over 100,000 times, should tell you all you need to know about the “risk” these designs pose.
The thought of Americans building their own guns may seem terrifying, but the truth is that homemade guns are as American as apple pie. When the American colonists declared independence against Great Britain, they faced a serious shortage of firearms. They scrambled to seize as many caches in the early days of the war as they could, but quickly found themselves outgunned by Britain’s well-oiled supply chains. That is, in part, why the colonies relied so heavily on militiamen. The militia was expected to show up for service with their own personal muskets or rifles, so there was no need for the colonial army to arm them.
The Continental Army would capture weapons and import them from overseas when they could, but they needed to source them domestically. The Continental Congress founded the Springfield Armory in 1777 and relied on a network of smaller gunsmiths scattered across the colonies to meet the army’s needs. Without that gunsmithing knowledge, the American Revolution could not have succeeded.
When the Founders wrote that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, they ratified it knowing that this basic blacksmithing and gunsmithing knowledge was key to defeating the British. Notice that the Second Amendment doesn’t limit Americans to simply buying firearms.
Firearm technology during the American Revolution was severely lacking by today’s standards. While there were rifles in production, most of the output was for the cheaply produced smooth-bore muskets.
Right now, anyone can walk into a Home Depot or Lowe’s and spend $20 in the plumbing aisle to build their own single-shot firearm that would put a Revolutionary musket to shame (both in accuracy and fire rate). Apparently, it wasn’t that hard for gun enthusiasts to figure out that a 12 gauge shotgun shell fits perfectly within a three-fourth inch pipe.
Take any elementary machining course at your local community college, and after just a few classes, you will come away with the knowledge needed to weld and rivet together your own WWII-era repeating firearm from a parts kit. Just to prove he could do it, one man even built an AK-47 out of a rusty shovel he bought at a garage sale for $2.
If you have a hand drill and an afternoon to kill, you can literally mill-out an untraceable AR-15 lower receiver by hand using nothing but online instructional videos for guidance. Or, you can spend a couple hundred dollars on a 3-D printer and have a plastic gun ready to fire in a matter of days. An American’s ability to build a firearm is limited only by his or her ingenuity, and we are an ingenious people.
After the Trump Administration reached a settlement with Wilson and Defense Distributed, the Obama-era regulations blocking 3-D printable gun blueprints from being shared online were lifted. It didn’t take long for gun control advocates to start the fearmongering. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer came out and declared that “America is going to get a lot less safe” because 3-D printable gun designs would let anyone build a gun with “the look and the capacity of a hardened, fully semi-automatic weapon.”
Aside from the fact that there’s no such thing as a “fully semi-automatic weapon,” I’ve yet to hear Schumer complain about the polymer-framed pistols that his security detail or police escorts carry to defend him. But, apparently the thought of an average citizen simply knowing how to build a polymer firearm is too much for him to handle.
The British Army tried to confiscate the colonists’ guns and failed. Today’s gun control advocates have already revealed they share the same endgame. When Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapon ban went into effect in 1994, she admitted during a news interview that if she had the votes, she would have said “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in.”
Now that the barriers to entry to build a firearm have all but disappeared, complete civilian disarmament is literally impossible. While the Founders never could have envisioned 3-D printing technologies, they understood the importance of being able to arm oneself. There is no right to keep and bear arms without a right to manufacture your own firearm, just as there is no First Amendment without the right to print a book or start your own religion.
Despite talking points to the contrary, there’s nothing to fear from 3-D printed guns. Criminals will continue to steal or illegally buy their crime guns, not build them out of plastic. Anyone truly bent on committing a crime with a plastic gun has already had the ability to do that for decades.
Any elected official who governs in the interests of the American people and preserves the Second Amendment’s protections has nothing to worry about an armed populace. Likewise, the fearmongering coming from the likes of Schumer should tell you all you need to know about his intentions.