If lawmakers are truly worried about the threat of unregistered firearms, they should focus instead on the bustling market of unfinished firearms, reported Slate. They’re, commonly called 80 percent lowers, in reference to the fact that these kits include guns that are about 80 percent complete but don’t constitute a full firearm and therefore don’t require a serial number or background check to be sold.
The 80 percent and do-it-yourself gun market has been able to blossom within a small loophole of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which made it illegal to build a firearm and sell it without a license. But the catch is that it’s legal if you make the firearm and keep it—no background check, serial number, or seller’s license needed. Do-it-yourself gun-making has been hard to regulate, largely because it’s hard to regulate componentry, and it’s near impossible to draw the line between a piece of metal that might go into a gun and one that actually does. And to make the prospect of regulating DIY guns even harder, there are already so many homemade guns out there it’s almost impossible to know that someone has one unless there’s an incident or someone has been stockpiling them to sell. The sad fact is that the more gun regulations pass, the more at-home gun-making kits sell. In California, for example, it’s illegal to possess an assault weapon like an AR-15, and Wilson told me in an interview earlier this year that California is his biggest market.
Despite what lawmakers were saying this week, it’s not clear that 3D-printed guns pose a serious threat. Plans for printing 3D weaponry never disappeared from the internet as a result of Wilson’s legal challenges, and it seems that 3D-printed guns don’t even work very well—when they do work. Police in Australia used a high-end 3D printer to make one, and when they fired it, the gun exploded upon the bullet leaving the chamber. People who print guns and try to shoot them might be more likely to blow off their hands than fire multiple bullets.
If lawmakers are concerned about threats having to do with 3D-printed weaponry, they might consider banning 3D-printed bump stocks, too, which are attachments that can be added to semi-automatic rifles to make them fire faster. Those might work better than a fully 3D-printed gun. But 80 percent lower kits remain a much bigger threat—and should be a higher priority for lawmakers.
Banning files from the internet doesn’t make much sense, anyway. Digital files can be reproduced with the click of a button. That’s how the internet works. Lawmakers should know this by now.
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