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3D guns: Caution, not panic

August 07. 2018 4:23PM

The world keeps moving while government struggles to keep up.

Advances in 3D printing technology, such as the ability to produce workable firearms, raises complicated issues that touch on the First Amendment as well as the Second.

That does not justify the liberal panic we’ve witnessed over 3D-printed guns. The State Department recently settled with a Texas company to allow it to publish its blueprints for 3D-printed guns. Such plans are already available online with a little searching, and it takes significant time and expertise to turn the plans into a working firearm.

Such weapons are the domain of hobbyists and tinkerers, not criminals. If someone legally barred from possessing a firearm wanted to get his hands on a gun, there are faster, cheaper, and easier ways than using a 3D printer.

We understand the concern that 3D printers might soon be able to produce cheap, reliable weapons, and make existing gun laws harder to enforce. But that would not justify suspending the First Amendment by preventing the publication of 3D blueprints.

Caution and responsibility are called for, not panic.

Reporter Todd Feathers wrote in the New Hampshire Sunday News that local libraries and companies with 3D printers prohibit the production of guns with their equipment. This is well within their rights, and doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s.

For those who have forfeited their right to keep and bear arms, such as convicted felons, we would not object to expanding prohibitions to include firearms designs, and perhaps even equipment that could be used to produce a gun.

Temporary restraining orders that prohibit people from buying a gun could also apply to 3D printing technology. These steps could help keep firearms, even unreliable plastic guns, out of the hands of people who should not have them, while letting law-abiding citizens exercise their rights.

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