3D-printed guns are a hot-button issue. The Liberator took center stage in 2013 when blueprints were released for this 3D-printed, fully-operational single-shot pistol. The inventor of the Liberator, Cody Wilson, started a company called Defense Distributed for the purpose of sharing his invention with the world. Thousands downloaded the blueprints, allowing them to print a plastic gun on a compatible 3D printer.
The federal government quickly took down the blueprints, stating that providing blueprints online was illegal trafficking of firearms. Additionally, the federal government argued that the Liberator, being that it is printed entirely from plastic, isn’t detectable by standard metal detectors, making it illegal under federal law.
Cody Wilson responded by filing a lawsuit for the violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. He argued that the source code is a form of speech and he has a right to share it with the world. Government censorship would be unconstitutional; and so, this case was settled prior to reaching the Supreme Court. Without guidance from the highest court, we may see some legal battles on the horizon.
So, are these 3D printed guns even legal to build?
Yes. Americans have always been able to manufacture their own firearms and 3D-printed guns aren’t any different. Just like machining parts to build your own AR-15, you can use the blueprints of the Liberator to print your own polymer pistol.
While federal law freely allows individuals to make firearms, for their personal use, in light of the 3D-printed gun technology, some states that embrace anti-gun laws are beginning to discuss legislation that will prevent people from building their own guns.
For example, New Jersey has drafted and passed a ban on homemade firearms that is not yet law, and California, while not prohibiting them outright, requires them to be serialized and registered. So be sure to get in touch with your state’s U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for the current status of your state’s law.
It is important to keep in mind that these items are still firearms. Even though you can print one in the comfort of your own home, if you are disqualified from possessing a firearm you cannot possess a 3D-printed gun either.
You cannot sell these firearms as part of a commercial business without first becoming a licensed manufacturer. There is no bright line here. If you decide to manufacture 80 guns for private sale you might start to look like an unlicensed firearm dealer and you’ll find yourself subject to some unwanted legal scrutiny.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding 3D-printed guns and you will likely see headlines in the near future addressing some of the remaining legal issues. In the meantime, U.S. & Texas LawShield will always keep you informed with the latest in gun laws, safety, and stories from our members across the nation.