INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Ben Chance has spent 26 years selling firearms at Don’s Guns, even taking a bullet to protect a co-worker when taking down an armed man inside the store.
But he’s worried about the settlement of a federal lawsuit that will permit a Texas company to publish online blueprints for building a plastic gun with a 3D printer. They can start publishing the blueprints on Aug. 1.
“It kind of scares the hell out of me,” Chance said. “How many guns can you manufacture from that computer and that printer? And where are those guns gonna go? You got terrorists all over the United States and you’re opening up a door for them.”
Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, fought a five-year long battle with the federal government after he was blocked from publishing plans for the “Liberator”, a single-shot handgun.
Wilson fought the case as a First Amendment issue.
“I think it’s a way of circumventing what they see as gun control on the horizon,” said gun rights attorney Guy Relford, “not so much what’s out there now.”
Defense Distributed has developed plans for the construction of other weapons, including AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, that it claims can also be created using a 3D printer.
“I think it’s seen almost as a novelty,” said Relford. “If you’re serious about firearms for home defense or for hunting or for competition, the number one thing you want is a safe, reliable firearm and cranking one out yourself in your basement on a 3D printer is not the way to get a safe, reliable firearm.”
All commercially-manufactured guns have a serial number stamped on the part referred to as the lower receiver which contains the trigger housing.
Even certain individual gun parts have that identification for privately assembled firearms as currently permitted by federal law.
A plastic gun created in a 3D printer would not have such a serial number, which is a key clue for investigators in tracking the history of a weapon.
“You can barely trace the guns that have serial numbers on them now,” said Chance, “so what’s gonna happen when they start manufacturing these guns all over the United States? They’re gonna exchange hands, there’s no paperwork, there’s no trail of this gun, if it’s made entirely of plastic you can melt it after you do your dirty work with it.”
Chance said safety concerns would prohibit the firing of such a weapon on his store’s indoor gun range.
“Anytime a gun is brought into a store, it’s put in a log book so when we sell that gun, we log it out to that person so the ATF can contact us and find out who purchased this gun.”
Relford said he sees no great interest in the gun community for 3D printed weapons.
“You need to know what you’re doing, you need to have the right materials, and I don’t know how many people wanting an untraceable gun are gonna run out and spend five to twenty thousand dollars on a 3D printer and the materials necessary as opposed to going to a back alley and buying a gun with serial numbers filed off of it from your local gangbanger as currently happens far too often,” he said.