Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

A Wiki Weapon Solution: Firearm Regulation for the Management of 3D Printing in the American Household

Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

A Wiki Weapon Solution: Firearm Regulation for the Management of 3D Printing in the American Household

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION II. ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING III. CURRENT LANDSCAPE OF FIREARM REGULATION        A. Federal Firearm Regulations        B. Undetectable Firearms Act        C. State Level Regulation            1. Louisiana            2. South Carolina            3. Maryland            4. New Jersey IV. PROPOSED LEGISLATION V. CONCLUSION 


As ever increasing media coverage has drawn the public eye to mass shootings in the United States over the last several years, the long-standing debate over regulatory solutions for gun crimes has reached new heights. While those in favor of individuals' gun rights boast that homicide rates have decreased by over 50% since 1991 (1) and gun violence rates have decreased by 49% since its peak in 1993, (2) those in opposition to gun rights focus on statistics showing that seven of the twelve deadliest mass shootings in United States history have occurred since 2007. (3)

These contrasting schools of thought may be forced by newly accessible technology to compromise and restructure the means by which firearms are regulated. Regulatory developments are already being pursued due to the rapid technological advances in additive manufacturing, which have enabled the average American household to purchase a 3D-printer for the cost of a laptop. (4) These 3D-printers can create products developed from downloadable blueprints ranging from a chess piece to a fully functioning firearm. (5) While the printers available for home use are still rudimentary compared to their more industrial counterparts, (6) the rapid development in technology alarms lawmakers. (7) But are 3Dprinted guns actually worth the fear that gun regulation proponents promulgate? The answer to that question is subject to debate. (8) Yet, as these printers have placed entirely plastic firearms that are undetectable to x-ray scanners within reach of the typical American without any need for a background check, those in support of technological development fear that the focus will fall on regulating the 3D-printers themselves, rather than on what they can produce. (9)

Part II of this note begins with a general examination of how additive manufacturing works, including the materials utilized in the process and the costs that accompany such materials. Then, attention will turn to the ability of users to print a fully functioning firearm and bullets with a home 3D-printer, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the 3D-printed firearm components. Part III will give an overview of current federal and state laws that regulate firearms in the United States. Considering the wide range of regulation on the state level, states of low, moderate, and high levels of regulation will be represented in the examination. For the purposes of this note, Louisiana, South Carolina, Maryland, and New Jersey will represent the degrees of regulation based on scoring by the Brady Campaign Score for Gun Laws. (10) In Part IV, suggestions for federal regulation and model state legislation will be proposed to regulate 3D-printed firearms without impeding on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Lawmakers now must balance the interests of all players involved in the gun-rights debate to create a viable safety plan without stifling technological development and constitutional freedoms. Part V concludes the note.


Additive manufacturing is defined as "the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies." (11) Although this manufacturing process has existed since the 1980s on an industrial level, 3D-printing was not widely accessible until the technology and software further developed and prices decreased, which only occurred in recent years. (12)

Additive manufacturing includes an array of 3D-printing methods, including selective laser sintering (SNL), 3D bioprinting, and multi-jet modeling. …

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