• 59°

Gun problems are about to go 3-D

Bloomberg Opinion

Last month the State Department quietly settled a lawsuit brought by a gun entrepreneur who promotes the private manufacture of untraceable firearms. Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, had been barred from publishing online computer files that can be used with a 3-D printer to create firearms. The State Department had imposed the ban using its export-control powers. The settlement allows Wilson to go ahead.

The legal issues in the case are complicated: First Amendment issues arise regarding computer code. But the problem this poses is simple. The digital “speech” distributed by Wilson consists of instructions to a machine to produce a deadly weapon. His firm also markets the “Ghost Gunner 2,” a computer-controlled milling machine that manufactures gun parts.

If this is permitted, people legally banned from possessing firearms (felons, domestic abusers, adolescents, the dangerously mentally ill) could make their own guns at home — lacking serial numbers, by the way, and therefore untraceable.

Some private gunsmiths already legally manufacture guns without serial numbers. But the process demands significant expertise, so it hasn’t presented a public safety crisis. Technology like Wilson’s would change this radically. Indeed, it’s meant to.

This nonsensical void in the law already poses a threat, but innovators like Wilson increase that threat exponentially. It’s possible that further legal action will keep the common-sense prohibition on Wilson’s 3-D gun plans, now set to expire by August, in place.

Regardless of what the State Department does, Congress needs to step forward with legislation. It needs to demand background checks for the components purchased to manufacture firearms. And all guns should be traceable by means of identifiable markers.

In addition, the particular threat posed by plastic guns — namely, that they’re hard to detect — needs to be addressed. Defense Distributed includes a small amount of metal in its blueprint, to comply with the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act. But that metal piece can be removed. (In 2013, journalists smuggled a 3-D-printed plastic gun into Israel’s parliament.) A stronger requirement to make such weapons detectable, along with strict enforcement, will be needed to deter this.

Failure to recognize the danger posed by 3-D printing of guns will have severe consequences. Anonymous manufacturers will make guns designed to evade security; criminals will easily obtain firearms they aren’t allowed to buy; and law-enforcement agents will struggle in vain to trace weapons used in crimes. The Wilson settlement must not go forward. The State Department needs to reverse course.



RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Locals look back on 50 years at Gary’s Barbecue in China Grove


Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet


Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament


Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina


House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot


Rowan County sees death 302 from COVID-19; Health Department to host final mass vaccine clinic

Ask Us

Ask Us: What happened to work on South Fulton Street home?


Blotter: Woman says she was shot in hand on Lincolnton Road


Rowan Sheriff’s Office charges Salisbury man with operating illegal gambling business


Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on felony drug, breaking and entering charges


Rep. Amber Baker discusses legislative session during Rowan Democrats breakfast meeting


Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest


N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding


RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest


Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction


Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured


Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12


Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September


Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers


Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners


Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs