Reporting Vic Carter
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The State Department has ordered a website to take down blueprints for the world’s first plastic gun, which people could make with a 3D printer. The all-plastic weapon was successfully test fired just last week. The government warned that putting these plans online could violate export laws. Before the blueprints disappeared, they were downloaded 100,000 times.
Vic Carter investigates why the internet and 3D printers could make homemade weapons the next frontier in the battle over gun control.
Shock waves from the Boston Marathon bombing rippled across the nation. Investigators soon learned that the pressure cooker bombs the suspects built–which killed three and injured nearly 200–are exactly the same as those found in how-to manuals anyone can get online.
“A mirror image,” said former NYPD bomb technician Kevin Barry. “Almost exactly from that manual are what seems to be recovered in Boston.”
But now you can learn more than bomb making on the internet. If you have the money to buy a 3D printer and the know-how to download instructions, you can now make guns in the privacy of your own home.
“I’m making several different types of guns,” said Travis Lerol.
In the basement of his Anne Arundel County home, using a 3D printer easily available at office supply stores, WJZ found Lerol tinkering with technology, making teapots, chess pieces–and even gun parts.
“It’s printing an AR-15 lower receiver, which legally counts as the firearm,” Lerol said.
Lerol is a hobbyist, just having fun with a cutting-edge toy, but some fear this technology could put guns in the wrong hands.
“It’s possible that it might eventually get misused. All technology can be, but I think the potential advantages of the technology outweigh the risks,” Lerol said.
An online search found dozens of websites with plans for printing your own gun parts and video showing they work.
The possibility of homemade guns in the future has the attention of several lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“Plastic firearms components, plastic magazines, plastic lower receivers that are firing off literally hundreds of rounds in tests,” said Congressman Steve Israel.
New York Congressman Steve Israel is leading the charge to ban 3D printed plastic gun components.
“We shouldn’t make it easy for people–for bad guys, for criminals, terrorists–to manufacture plastic gun components that can be brought onto a plane as easy as it is for me to bring on a Diet Coke,” he said.
The website Defense Distributed worries authorities; it has hundreds of online blueprints for homemade weapons. Its founder, Cody Wilson, has now created the first working gun completely made of plastic. Wilson says it’s everyone’s right to own a gun and he’s daring the government to stop him.
“I’m only the beginning,” he said.
But where does it end?
“The difficulty with issues like this is that technologies proceed so rapidly that sometimes the laws follow,” Israel said.
“Pass all the laws you want. Make it super illegal, as they probably will. A law has nothing to say about it; that doesn’t change the fact that it can be done,” Wilson said.
“You just don’t want to make it easier for bad guys to do bad things,” Israel said.
Congressman Israel is pushing for renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which bans guns without metal that can slip through metal detectors. The law would also be amended to include any magazine or firearm component.