WASHINGTON — The 5 million National Rifle Association members awaiting the organization’s holiday newsletter may be surprised by the group’s argument against the possible renewal and expansion of a federal ban on plastic guns. Rather than clinging the Second Amendment, as it is wont to do, the NRA is arguing that “artistic expression would be severely hampered if the government regulated the creative use of plastics.”
The Undetectable Firearms Act—set to expire on Dec. 9—makes it illegal to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive” guns designed to evade metal detectors, such as those made out of plastic.
When the bill was signed into law in 1988, no such guns existed, but the development of 3-D printing has now made it possible for anyone with $1,000 and an internet connection to construct a plastic gun without many—if any—metal components.
Sen. Chuck Schumer and gang of similar-minded lawmakers have been burning the midnight oil while Congress has been on recess for the Hanukkah and Thanksgiving holidays to renew and expand the legislation so that it covers 3-D printing.
The NRA is dead set against allowing the proposal to pass. Its newsletter, “Silver Barrels,” warns of a government plot to limit artistic freedom.
“Any of our proud members who’ve gone through the trouble of installing an inkjet or dot-matrix printer so they can run off a couple hundred copies of their preferred anti-government manifesto,” the newsletter read, “can imagine the frustration of a graphic artist who struggles to design a truly innovative firearm only to be told that he can’t print it because it’s too ‘subversive.’”
It continued, “Were the plastic gun ban to place restrictions on creative artists like these, it’d be like taking the microphone away from such revolutionaries like John Lennon (ask your daughter) or 2Pac (ask your grandson).”
Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, another gun rights group, told the New York Times that the technology cannot yet be considered a real threat because 3-D printing is still limited to a small set of “creative types—you know the peace-loving, hippie-dippie kids who would never actually fire a gun at a fly, let alone an innocent schoolchild or movie theater full of people.”
“They’re not going to be in Kinkos,” explained Pratt. “And even if they were, when was the last time a print job from Kinkos came out like it was supposed to?”
As proof, Pratt pointed to the NRA’s newsletter, which included misaligned text and smudged graphics. “It’s a good thing, though. If I paid for a print job like that,” he said, “I’d want to shoot the manager.”