On Tuesday morning, President Trump leaped into the issue of 3D gun printing, suggesting that the federal government ought to do something about it.
This tweet is wildly misleading. First off, as Stephen Gutowski of The Washington Free Beacon points out, it is easy and legal to find gun blueprints online — and it should be, given that the First Amendment problems with barring the ability to post and consume such blueprints are quite serious. Gutowski also points out that the “vast majority of 3D printed gun designs are not undetectable to metal detectors,” because they are made of metal, their parts manufactured by gun manufacturers. It’s actually illegal to build a gun that’s undetectable, Gutowski explains — the ban on creation of such weapons was extended to 2023 under the Undetectable Firearms Act.
Trump himself talks about 3D plastic guns “being sold to the public.” But any person or business who engages in the sale of firearms must already be licensed. And a person who buys a firearm from a licensed firearm dealer has to pass a federal background check.
And 3D guns are notoriously unreliable — they break down easily, they’re extraordinarily expensive to produce (the printers themselves run up to $100,000) and they aren’t nearly as accurate as manufactured weapons as a general rule.
Laws attempting to crack down on individuals manufacturing their own weapons have always failed — for obvious reasons. So it’s simply unclear what Trump is talking about.