Are Downloadable Plastic Guns a Threat?

Are Downloadable Plastic Guns a Threat?

Downloading your own gun is coming to a future near you and it’s closer than you think. The ban of plastic guns has been hot on the wires of late with the recent 10-year extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act. There’s been other concerns as well like the one stemming from the creation of a ‘downloadable’ plastic gun back in May albeit only the blueprints for one that still requires a 3-D printer.

According to USAToday: “You wouldn’t think a weapon as crude as the “Liberator” — the grandiose name its law-student inventor gave it — would be something that could give security officials nightmares. The gun is a simple, single-shot weapon that uses a nail as a firing pin and is by some reports about as likely to blow up in a shooter’s hand as it is to hit its target. In automobile terms, though, this is only the Model A. Just wait.”

Currently, federal law prohibits the creation and distribution of ‘undetectable’ firearms, essentially requiring by law that all firearms contain a metal component so they can’t bypass screening devices. With the rise of 3-D technology, however, and especially with the very real existence of the “Liberator” (its blueprints removed by the creator, but still available on mirror sites), politicians — particularly Democrats — are concerned that there’s really nothing in place to stop someone from ‘printing’ their own custom gun at home without that crucial metal piece.

Specifically, Democrats are in a twist over the recent renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 because it leaves a possible loophole of removal metal components open.

“As the law stands, a metal piece is required, but nothing is said about the permanence or the functionality of the metal. With the advent of technology, someone could easily insert a small metal pin to align with the law, remove it as necessary to pass through security, and still have a fully functioning weapon to carry onto a plane.” (The Daily Beast)

You still have to keep in mind that even if the gun itself doesn’t contain metal, what is it going to use to shoot? Peanuts? Sen. Paul remains dismissive about truly undetectable plastic guns.

“If a plastic gun that shoots something that would have any force, it would be a metal bullet and metal bullets obviously would be detectable. I’m not sure you can really have a fully functional weapon that’s not detectable. Most of the magazines they tell me also require metal springs and loaders within them,” said Paul. (

If the law were amended to close that ‘loophole’, is that really going to matter? If someone is going out of their way to create an undetectable gun, are they really going to care what the law says?

Individuals who intend to break the law will not be deterred by a ban on plastic materials, [stated Mike Hammond from the Gun Owners of America, a gun-advocacy group in VA.] “It’s stupid to think it would make any difference.” (Bloomberg)

Poor Richard’s News brings the Second Amendment into the debate by saying:

“[Second Amendment:] A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Yeah, I don’t see anything in there that requires firearms to be made out of a particular material.

Furthermore, while metal detectors were first invented and used around the turn of last century, they didn’t exist on a broad scale until the 1960s, which means the feds haven’t been even able to detect a metal gun until relatively recently. And now it’s mandatory for all firearms to be metal? What a ludicrous notion.

Maybe there is a real threat here. Maybe downloadable plastic guns will become a thing. We’ll see how it all plays out in the constant debate of gun rights.

As The Daily Beast points out: “For most people, there’s no upside to being able to manufacture firearms in your basement that you can then carry onto a plane. It would be nice if laws could keep up with the times, but leaving well enough alone may well be the price of victory on guns for this Congress.”

Photograph courtesy of Johnathan Nightingale, via Flickr Creative Commons




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