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Pallone Calls on 3-D Printer Manufacturers to take Steps to Prevent Printing of Firearms

August 23, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC- Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), the Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to several 3-D printing companies asking that they detail the steps being taking to limit the production of undetectable and untraceable firearms. Pallone requested that these companies consider developing technology that could prevent 3-D guns from being printed and take steps that would discourage printing of firearms altogether.

Earlier this year the State Department and Texas-based Defense Distributed reached an agreement to allow the organization to release blueprints for 3-D guns online. Defense Distributed's website features blueprints for the Liberator pistol along with an AR-15 and a VZ-58, a Czechoslovakian assault rifle. These weapons of war have been used in mass shootings like the one that took place in Parkland, Florida.

3-D gun blueprints are currently considered data that is governed by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and cannot be published without approval from the State Department. The Trump Administration has proposed a new regulation to remove downloadable gun blueprints from this classification, allowing anyone to post 3-D gun blueprints.

The letter is addressed to Mr. Nadav Goshen, Chief Executive Officer, MakerBot; Mr. Antonio Neri, President and Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Wilfried Vancraen, Founder and Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Uwe Bögershausen, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officer; Dr. Ingo Ederer, Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Vyomesh Joshi, Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Kent Rockwell, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

The letters are attached.

Dear ____:

I am writing with regard to 3-D printing technology being used to create undetectable and untraceable guns.  While this is not a new problem, the Administration’s recent action allowing the group Defense Distributed to widely distribute plans for 100 percent plastic 3-D printable guns has intensified my concern.

Made-at-home guns that are not registered, known as “ghost guns,” are already on the rise.[1]  Individuals obtain these firearms without serial numbers, without undergoing a federal background check and without registering them with law enforcement.  These untraceable firearms have been associated with a number of crimes.[2] 

Allowing broader access to the 3-D printing of plastic guns will only add to this troubling problem.  Not only could we see an increase in untraceable guns, the problem could be magnified because these plastic firearms are undetectable as well.  Individuals bringing plastic guns without metal parts through metal detectors at security checkpoints pose a unique threat to secure facilities including airports, concerts, stadiums, and government buildings. 

Recognizing the risk to public safety from 3-D printed plastic guns, a federal judge approved a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) blocking the publication of the gun blueprints online.  Attorneys General from several states, including New Jersey, are also fighting to stop easy access to those blueprints and have sent cease and desist letters to Defense Distributed regarding publishing its gun computer files for use by state residents.[3]  While these court challenges are important, Congress also must investigate what can be done to address this danger.

As one of the largest technology companies involved in 3-D printing, you are no doubt aware of the dangers posed to public safety by 3-D printed firearms.  I know that some 3-D printing companies are taking steps to prevent 3-D printed guns.[4]  I commend those efforts but also seek more information regarding prevention measures.  I therefore request information about any current or potential safeguards that your company is using or considering that could prevent 3-D printing technology from being used to print undetectable and untraceable firearms.  Specifically, please answer the following questions:

  1. What technology is your company developing or using to prevent or discourage the use of 3-D printers for printing a firearm or parts that can be assembled to make a firearm?
  2. What policies does your company have in place to prevent or discourage the use of 3-D printers to produce firearms, especially by those prohibited under current federal law from possessing a firearm?
  3. Many states have minimum age requirements for the purchase of a firearm.  Given the recent mass shootings by school-aged children, what technology, policies, or other methods does your company have in place or is your company developing that could prevent underage individuals from printing a firearm?

Your assistance is greatly appreciated, and I look forward to receiving your response.  If you have any questions about this request, please contact James Johnson in my office at (202) 225-4671.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

[1] The Rise of Untraceable ‘Ghost Guns,’ Wall Street Journal (Jan. 4, 2018).

[2] Id.

[3] Letter from New Jersey Attorney General Grewal to Defense Distributed (July 26, 2018).

[4] Some 3D Printing Companies Are Taking Action Against Gun Blueprints, NPR (Aug. 14, 2018) (www.npr.org/2018/08/14/638629404/some-3d-printing-companies-are-taking-action-against-gun-blueprints).