A restraining order issued Tuesday by a federal judge in Seattle is only delaying the inevitable when it comes to 3D guns. The only longterm defense against the downloadable weapons is a public realization that this nation’s fascination with guns is creating carnage with which we are destroying ourselves.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik blocked — for now — the online publication of blueprints for a variety of 3D weapons, saying, “There is a possibility of irreparable harm because of the way these guns can be made.” That irreparable harm already is taking place from conventional weapons, and the advent of 3D guns increases visions of a dystopian future in which gun violence continues to increase throughout the United States.
With the proper blueprints, materials and a high-quality 3D printer, anybody could print out an operable gun that is not traceable. In 2013, a Texas man named Cody Wilson created designs for plastic guns — including AR-15-style rifles and handguns — and published them on his website. The Obama administration forced a halt to that publication, and Wilson filed suit. Once the Trump administration came into power, it struck a deal with Wilson to allow publication beginning this month and paid him $40,000 for legal costs.
On Monday, eight states led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked the courts to prevent that publication. “I have a question for the Trump administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons,” Ferguson said. “These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history. If the Trump administration won’t keep us safe, we will.”
Making blueprints available would provide a loophole in gun laws to be exploited by criminals ranging from terrorists to street gangs. And the thought that anybody would believe this is a good idea represents nothing less than a sickness in the American psyche. The United States has an estimated 300 million privately owned firearms — nearly one per person. It also has a rate of gun violence that dwarfs other developed nations.
That is a correlation, not a coincidence. As numerous studies have determined, the prevalence of guns leads to more gun violence. The United States has more than 30,000 gun deaths per year — a per-capita rate eight times higher than Canada and 27 times higher than Denmark. The rate of gun deaths throughout the civilized world is dwarfed by that of the United States.
Studies have shown that the United States does not have more crime than other developed nations; it simply has more guns that often lead to an escalation of that crime. As a 1990s study at the University of California, Berkeley, found: “A preference for crimes of personal force and the willingness and ability to use guns in robbery make similar levels of property crime 54 times as deadly in New York City as in London.”
That is the lingering issue that underlies the temporary discussion about 3D guns. While a federal judge can halt publication of one company’s blueprints, it is only a matter of time until somebody develops similar designs. Once those plans arrive on the internet, there is no turning back.
Instead, Americans must focus on the sickness that is our obsession with guns. That sickness is rotting us from the inside; 3D weapons are merely a symptom.