Lawmakers protest US deal allowing free plans for 3D guns

DD website invites to download program to make ghost guns

NEW JERSEY: US President Donald Trump, right, and First Lady Melania Trump, left, walk off Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, NJ. —AFP

WASHINGTON: Dozens of US legislators are demanding that the Trump administration explain a recent agreement to allow the free distribution of plans for using 3D printers to make plastic handguns that will be easy to hide and almost impossible to control. After a lengthy legal battle, the government reached agreement last month with Cody Wilson, a militant gun rights advocate from Texas. He successfully argued that the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to private gun ownership, should extend to a person’s right to make guns at home-uncontrolled by authorities, since they will bear no serial number.

Dozens of Democrats in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate have decried the settlement and are demanding an explanation from the President Donald Trump’s administration, which has been extremely supportive of gun-owners’ rights. The agreement between the State Department, which controls the exportation of American arms, and Wilson’s Defense Distributed (DD) group was reached on June 29. But it remained secret until last week, after groups advocating for stronger gun controls demanded its publication.

The consent agreement “permits any United States person, to include DD’s customers and SAF’s members, to access, discuss, reproduce or otherwise benefit from the technical data that is the subject of the action.” The SAF is the Second Amendment Foundation, which supported Wilson’s suit and has called the settlement a “devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby.” Wilson is due to receive $40,000 in damages and interest. The DD website invites anyone interested to download the program to make so-called “ghost guns” starting August 1, when “the age of the downloadable gun formally begins.”

That means anyone with a 3D printer-which costs around $2,000 and can be programmed to build objects of almost any shape-will be able starting next week to make plastic-bodied guns at home for just a few hundred dollars each. Security experts fear that the guns may be able to evade detection by the metal detectors used in many public buildings and airports. But gun enthusiasts say that without some metal parts, the guns will be unreliable-and might even explode in a user’s face.

Felons and terrorists
The settlement offers no justification for the decision in Wilson’s favor. Similar software programs have become available in other countries, notably Britain, China and Japan. But five US senators, all Democrats, have denounced the agreement as “stunning” and “puzzling,” and have demanded, in an open letter, that the government provide a written explanation of its thinking. “The settlement will allow these tutorials to be posted online for unlimited distribution to anyone-including felons and terrorists-both here in the United States and abroad,” the senators wrote.

Forty-two Democratic members of the House of Representatives shared their own concerns, writing that the administration’s decision would only worsen the “epidemic of armed violence” in the US. “So-called ‘ghost guns’ do not bear a manufacturer’s serial number and may be constructed using plastic materials that are impossible to screen at security checkpoints using metal detectors,” they wrote. “We shouldn’t have to wait for someone to kill someone in a House office building after sneaking past security with a plastic 3D printed gun to do something to stop this.”-AFP

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