Senate to Push Gun Law Curbing 3-D Printing


The U.S. Senate is expected to vote next week on an expanded gun law that would restrict the 3-D printing of firearms.

The move comes after the House of Representatives on Dec. 3 agreed to extend for another 10 years legislation banning guns that can’t be seen by metal detectors or X-ray machines.

The existing bill, known as the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, is set to expire Dec. 10 and doesn’t take into account the increasingly popularity of 3-D printing technology, which allows hobbyists and businesses to build guns using metal or plastic components.

Gun control advocates say new language is necessary because the latest printing technology makes most detection systems obsolete, while gun rights proponents argue the opposite because the 3-D printers are expensive and not widely used.

Solid Concepts Inc., a custom manufacturing company based in Valencia, Calif., last month said it built the first-ever metal gun using a 3-D printer at its Texas facility.

While the U.S. military has already begun experimenting with 3-D printing, which is technically known as additive manufacturing, the technology isn’t limited to firearms.

General Electric Co. earlier this year announced it planned to make cobalt-chromium fuel nozzles for a certain type of engine using 3-D printing. The Fairfield, Conn.-based conglomerate even brought a demonstration model of a 3-D printer to last summer’s Paris Air Show to give attendees a firsthand look at how easily it operates — and to hand out small souvenir metallic prints.

The Senate, set to reconvene on Dec. 9, may push to adopt tougher language that would require plastic guns to be made with non-removable metal parts so they can be better detected. But if there aren’t enough votes to support the provision, the chamber will probably approve the existing law and revisit the issue next year.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Edohiguma


    Let’s say I’m a terrorist and want to hijack a plane. Ok, so I can’t get a 3D printed gun onto the plane. Fine. I’ll just bring a 3D printed knife.

    • Deviantdevil

      So what if the guns are invisible. You still have to have bullets and unless they’re all plastic too you’ve just got a gun through security that has nothing to fire!

      • Edohiguma

        Of course. But go to DC and try to explain that to the Beltway Mafia.

      • seans

        Well considering that you can make a completely polymer cartridge, and the fact that most metal detectors won’t be set off by a single bullet, which was kinda the whole point of the “Liberator” 3D printed gun, you could make a completely undetectable to metal detectors gun.

        • bloke_from_ohio

          Isn’t the Liberator only slightly more potent than a shiv if it has just one round? Shooting people is already illegal and ammunition is still made of metal so this is not really needed.

    • Don

      If you do be sure you go through a facility that does not employ the body scanners.

    • Musson

      This law has nothing to do with Terrorists. That is just the cover story.

  • Lance

    The House wont go for Scumers expanded gun ban so the whole law will expire then.

  • JDs Handsome Son

    I hope our legislators don’t find out about the new invisible ink full auto ARs with collapsible stocks, bayonet lugs, 100 round drums, and 10 inch barrels that can be assembled anywhere by anybody, even minors and the criminally insane, and can be shipped in the mail bypassing FFLs all over the country. They’ve got cool pistol grips and are totally suppressed, so that not only can they not be seen, they can’t be heard when they fire invisible steel piercing incendiary rounds from two miles with no loss in velocity and knock down power.

    Keep this under your hats, everyone.

    • bombbuster72

      I’ve heard that they might include that “shoulder thing that goes up”. Heaven help us if they do.

    • Virgil_Hilts

      DAMN!!!! I gotta GET ME one of those!!!!
      Amazing how people can go to the House or Senate, and apparently their mere PRESENCE in those chambers automatically make them EXPERTS on any subject which comes across their desk…apparently they are worked up into a frenzy of alarm with the possibility that ‘invisible guns’ (so to speak) will be cranked out by the billions, with evil geniuses working in their basements…never mind the cost of the printer and all the related CNC hardware required to get started. Don’t they realize that the criminals aren’t going to MAKE their weapons….they’ll just STEAL them! DUH! They’re Criminals!

  • Thunder350

    Let’s be real, the only reason this bill is being pushed through is because the gun manufactures are worried it’ll threaten their business when people can make their own guns for a fraction of the cost in a few years, they’ve already successfully made automatic rifles with 3D printing (And no, they aren’t “plastic”). It’s the same reason why “normal” guns aren’t ever going to be banned, the corporations want to keep their weapons priced high, and thus all the money they make to themselves!

  • xpoqx

    I don’t understand how 3D printing a firearm makes it “undetectable” to current security measures. It is my understanding that regardless of it being printed out of metal or plastic, it can still be viewed and seen as a firearm through an x-ray device. Body scanners and pat downs also provide additional levels of security before boarding planes.

  • G

    This works in favor of gun manufacturers.

  • Jay

    That’s how you got the import bans. It’s funny how quick the gun manufacturers switch sides when it helps them keep the monopoly. This cap will pass. I don’t think NRA is on your side on this, with all the money they get from the big players in the industry.

  • JDC

    This looks like a solution in search of a problem.

    First, if I’m a bad guy trying to smuggle a weapon aboard an aircraft, I’ve already got malice and law breaking in mind.

    So, do they REALLY think a bad guy will obey the law here? Obviously not. A bad guy will download the plans, build the weapon and do what he/she wants.

    Good comments by everybody, thanks for the chance to contribute.

  • dxt443

    I have a fundemental question. Has anyone actually seen one of these “invisable” guns actually fire a round? I would have to think that there would be serious questions about the strength of the weapon and the ability to contain the chamber pressure. I wonder if the “experts” in Washington aren’t all spun up over a problem that doesn’t really exist.

    • SBG1

      Actually, the real push behind this is coming for the businesses not involved with weaponry. It’s just convenient, being that the law governing undetectable firearms is getting ready to sunset. There’s a whole lot of manufacturers out there who are seeing the potential for their current spare parts business starting to be endangered. Maybe not today, but could easily happen within the next 5 years.

      Three years ago, an entry level 3-D printer was right around $3k per, and not particularly quality. Now that same printer (much improved) is being pushed out through Kickstarter programs for sub $1k, and even for as low as $200 per unit.

      Now the push is for what is called ‘Rapid Manufacturing’, and that takes in areas such as laser melting and laser sintering (, and then you are working with all sorts of metal alloys. At which point all your gun manufactures have competition, and it’s likely competition with their customer base.

      And to make things worse from a conventional manufacturer’s viewpoint, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is pushing an effort to invalidate a number of what they feel are ‘junk’ patents affecting additive technology.

      The manufacturing community is looking for avenues to delay/derail the process, so what better avenue than raising the scary image of the out-of-control proliferation of undetectable weapons in a ‘black market’ environment, out of government control.

      What they should be concerned about is all of us ‘out-of-control’ types using the technology to build spare parts locally/on-demand and avoiding having all the businesses and governments taking their ‘cut’.


    Just like loading your own had no lasting impact on factory loads, there will be no impact by building your own on the gun manufacturing industry. It will be no different than what building your own gun and wildcat rounds is now, only different tools meaning the 3D printer and desktop CNC. The ideas and products from organized professional companies, who themselves may also use 3D printing and desktop CNC on certain of their products, will be just as sought after for their design, use of ideas and resources and the skill of the craft of their manufacturing excellence as they are now. 3D printing and desktop CNC are just more new tools, as were CNC, computers, phones and the internet. There is no threat from any of this. Companies will also adapt many new ideas they learn from personal home manufacturers, no different than what they do now and have always done.

    Also, after X-Rays, patdowns and strip searches, these homemade guns won’t be “invisible” for very long. LOLOL