New legislation led by Sen. Gillibrand aims to combat the issue of 3D printed guns.

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The U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently made a crucial announcement regarding the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act, a legislative initiative initially introduced by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey back in July 2021. The main objective of this bill is to put a stop to the online distribution of blueprints for 3D printed firearms, which has led to a rising concern over the availability of homemade firearms without traceable serial numbers, commonly known as ghost guns.

Gillibrand’s announcement took place during a recent press conference, where she was accompanied by important figures such as state officials, gun safety advocates, and representatives from organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and the New York Police Department (NYPD) labor union Detectives’ Endowment Association.

Upon its introduction in 2021, the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act was read aloud twice on the Senate floor. The usual next step for the bill is to move to the relevant committee, which, in this case, is the Committee on the Judiciary. This committee can decide to review the bill further, hold hearings, gather expert testimony, and discuss any necessary changes. Depending on the committee’s findings and decisions, the bill could either be sent back to the Senate floor for a full vote or remain in the committee without further action, which would essentially stall its progress.

Ghost guns have managed to elude conventional regulatory mechanisms because their components are often sourced from “ghost gun kits” or 3D printed using CAD files that are easily accessible online. The alarming ease with which these models can be obtained, without even requiring a background check, along with the potential to bypass metal detectors due to their plastic composition, highlights the escalating threat they pose to public safety.

Data from the NYPD reveals a 75% increase in ghost gun seizures last year, with 20 firearms recovered from crimes in Manhattan in the year 2022 alone. Since Mayor Eric Adams’ inauguration in January 2022, the NYPD has confiscated a total of 8,500 illegal guns, including 540 ghost guns, marking a 76% rise from 2021. Statewide data from the New York State Intelligence Center also points to a 135% surge in the recovery of ghost guns in 2021 compared to the previous year. What’s happening in New York is not an isolated incident, as major cities across the United States report similar findings. According to data from 3DPrint.com, the number of arrests related to 3D printed guns doubled in 2021 and tripled in 2022 compared to previous years. In May 2023 alone, the NYPD made a record number of gun-related arrests, apprehending 349 individuals and seizing 284 firearms in the process.

Senator Gillibrand stressed the urgency of addressing this issue, stating, “With the increase in ghost gun seizures in NYC, we need to do more at the federal level to stop 3D printed guns from ever being created in the first place. The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act is federal legislation that would ban the online distribution of blueprints for 3D printing firearms. Those who shouldn’t have a gun should not be able to simply print one with just the click of a mouse. By cracking down on the distribution of blueprints as well as the guns themselves, we can limit the availability of ghost guns and make it more difficult for dangerous individuals to obtain them.”

The proposed legislation has received widespread support. State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal recognized the alignment between this federal action and a state bill he co-drafted that aims to criminalize the production of 3D printed and ghost guns. Hoylman-Sigal expressed his support for Senator Gillibrand’s federal action, stating, “I’m proud to support Senator Gillibrand’s much-needed federal action on untraceable guns through her new bill, the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act. Her legislation is an important and necessary complement to our state bill (S7364) that makes the manufacturing of 3D-printed guns and ghost guns illegal, which I drafted with Assembly Member Rosenthal in consultation with Manhattan District Attorney Bragg.” Manhattan District Attorney Bragg also commended Gillibrand’s leadership and urged the New York legislature to prioritize legislation that makes sharing 3D printable gun files illegal. Earlier this year, Bragg himself announced similar legislation that would make it illegal to share these digital models in New York.

The introduction of this bill is just the latest development in an ongoing debate that dates back to the early 2010s when Defense Distributed released the blueprints for the 3D printed Liberator gun design. Initially, the U.S. Department of State ordered the organization to remove the blueprints, citing a violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which oversees the export of defense-related materials and data. This triggered a lengthy legal battle that eventually led to a settlement in 2018.

It is clear that the issue of 3D printed guns and ghost guns is one that demands immediate attention. The proposed 3D Printed Gun Safety Act represents an important step towards curbing the distribution and production of these firearms. By addressing the availability of blueprints and imposing stricter regulations, lawmakers hope to limit the access that dangerous individuals have to these weapons. The support and collaboration from various stakeholders and organizations foster optimism that meaningful change can be achieved to protect public safety.

States responded swiftly to counter the spread of ghost guns, concerned about the potential threats it poses to public safety. While it is important to protect people’s First and Second Amendment rights, it is equally crucial to address the growing concern over the accessibility of guns made without serial numbers. These weapons not only disrupt law enforcement’s ability to track and regulate firearms but also allow dangerous individuals or minors to possess deadly weapons without going through background checks or age limits.

Just days before Senator Gillibrand announced the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act, Manhattan legislators collaborated with the NYPD to introduce new legislation criminalizing the production of 3D printed firearms and components. This bill aims to address manufacturing loopholes, enhance penalties, and make the printing and distribution of ghost gun blueprints illegal. Though 3D printing has numerous advantages, it has also opened doors for potential misuse.

With the advancement and affordability of 3D printing technology, barriers to 3D printing guns have significantly diminished. While not everyone who 3D prints a weapon intends to use it for criminal purposes, the fact that criminals are turning to 3D printing is cause for concern. Organizations like the Angellyh Yambo Foundation have emphasized their support for the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act as they recognize the dangers of easily accessible online blueprints for ghost guns. They stress the urgency of addressing these loopholes to ensure community safety.

While individual states have taken steps to combat ghost guns, a coordinated national response is seen as the most effective way to address the issue. Senator Gillibrand’s 3D Printed Gun Safety Act aims to restrict the spread of firearm blueprints and send a strong message about the government’s stance on unregulated weapon proliferation. However, the Act is likely to face challenges from advocates of gun rights and free speech, as well as 3D printing enthusiasts who argue against suppressing innovation in the sector. On the other hand, gun safety advocates, parents, educators, and many urban communities concerned about the rise in gun violence will likely view this legislation as a necessary step toward safety.

The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act represents a significant move in handling a new challenge. Balancing technology, laws, and people’s safety is a complex task for lawmakers. As technology advances, governments must stay updated and adapt their approach to firearms and online freedoms. The discussions surrounding this law may shape future policies in these areas.

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