83° Good Afternoon
83° Good Afternoon

‘Ghost guns’ from 3-D printers are a major danger

A 2013 photo shows a Liberator assembled from

A 2013 photo shows a Liberator assembled from components molded on a 3-D printer. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / ROBERT MACPHERSON

“Build your piece in peace.”

“Legally manufacture unserialized rifles and pistols in the comfort and privacy of home.”

“The age of the downloadable gun formally begins.”

This is some of the dangerous drivel featured on the website of Defense Distributed, a company founded by a Texas anarchist who has spent years fighting the federal government for the right to offer blueprints for 3-D printed guns.

It’s not science fiction. Inexpensive 3-D “printers” can use computer design tools to produce small objects. Don’t be fooled by thinking of your desktop color printer, which spits out only paper. If you have the right blueprint, the right machine and the ability to assemble the parts, you can make a workable gun, possibly even an AR-15 rifle. More disturbingly, you can have a firearm that has no serial number and is therefore untraceable, a gun made of plastic that can pass unseen through metal detectors, a gun that can be made at home by someone who would have failed a background check to buy one. The guns will only get better as technology and materials improve.

All of this adds up to serious domestic and national security issues. So-called “ghost guns” can wreak havoc if smuggled into otherwise protected spaces, from schools to airports to sports stadiums. Even if they are not made en masse, they are a boon to those we most want to be prevented from owning a gun.

The Obama administration saw some problems with this, and forced Defense Distributed to take down its blueprints from the internet. Defense Distributed sued. The company seemed to be out of luck, with President Donald Trump’s administration filing a motion to dismiss the suit. But in June, the administration reached a surprise settlement that would allow the blueprints to be posted and even pay some of the plaintiff’s legal fees. Even the plaintiffs were shocked.

Perhaps Trump was, too. On Tuesday, he tweeted, “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

It’s not exactly clear what Trump plans to do about ghost guns, but we agree that allowing them doesn’t make sense at all. For starters, Trump should block blueprints immediately via administrative action. This should not be a controversial debate. Both the Nassau and Suffolk county police departments are concerned that these guns present dangers to officers and the public. Laws dating back to one signed by President Ronald Reagan have sought to keep up with technology and prevent unaccountable guns from becoming easily accessible.

Defense Distributed had put some blueprints online before a temporary restraining order was granted Tuesday after a lawsuit was filed by a coalition of state attorneys general. Unfortunately, hundreds of blueprints have already been downloaded. Bills introduced in Washington Tuesday would stop online blueprints and strengthen the Reagan-era prohibition of non-detectable guns. A common ground and strong prohibitions must be found on this issue. No one needs to make guns that are untraceable or undetectable. Rescind the settlement and tighten the federal laws governing DIY weapons. — The editorial board