January 3, 2024 – Wishing all our readers a Happy and Healthy New Year! The year 2023 came with several notable legislative developments regarding firearms. Regardless of whether legislation affects manufacturers, distributors, retailers, or consumers, the federal government and individual states continue to find unconventional approaches to gun control, sometimes through new technology.
Recent developments in Congress and New York state suggest an increased focus by legislatures on controlling the manufacture and distribution of firearms and component parts for firearms through the use of 3D printers. Currently pending in the Senate is a bill to ban computer-aided design (CAD) gun file sharing, while a bill introduced in New York state would require purchasers of 3D printers to undergo a firearm background check.
Senate Bill to Ban Gun CAD Files
Senate Bill 1819, also known as the “3D Printed Gun Safety Act,” was introduced by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and co-sponsored by 28 other Democrats. The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act would amend the Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 921-934, by adding a new provision, 18 U.S.C. § 922(aa):
Distribution Of Code For 3D Printed Firearms.— It shall be unlawful for any person to intentionally distribute, over the internet or by means of the World Wide Web, digital instructions in the form of Computer Aided Design files or other code that can automatically program a 3-dimensional printer or similar device to produce a firearm or complete a firearm from an unfinished frame or receiver.
The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act would prohibit the sharing of digital instructions in the form of CAD files intended to 3D print firearms and complete firearms. Drafters of the bill cite a lack of serial numbers and the ability of firearms made of plastic to evade metal detectors at airports and security checkpoints as some of the reasons that the proposed law is necessary.
The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act potentially raises constitutional questions under the First and Second Amendments. Many in the firearm community believe that computer code is protected speech, and the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act would violate their First Amendment rights.
New York Background Checks for 3D Printers
New York Assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar recently introduced Assembly Bill A8132, which would require purchasers of 3D printers to undergo a firearm background check. Specifically, A8132 would amend New York’s General Business Law by adding a new section 398-g to read in part:
Any retailer of a three-dimensional printer sold in this state which is capable of printing a firearm, or any components of a firearm, is required and authorized to request and receive criminal history information concerning such purchaser from the division of criminal justice services…
People prohibited by New York state from possessing firearms would be denied the ability to purchase a 3D printer. Given that A8132 would include printers capable of printing “any components of a firearm,” it could be interpreted as covering nearly all available 3D printers. There are arguments to be made that 3D printers have many lawful uses besides 3D printing firearms or component parts for firearms and that A8132 would restrict these other artistic and expressive uses, which may raise First Amendment issues.
These proposed laws intended to curtail the proliferation of illegal firearms and component parts for firearms by controlling the use and sale of 3D printing technology evidence the same one-dimensional approach that federal and state legislatures take towards gun control. By prohibiting the distribution of CAD files for 3D printing firearms and requiring background checks for purchasers of 3D printers the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens are arguably swallowed by legislation aimed at gun control.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act, New York Assembly Bill A8132, and other firearm related legislation around the country. If you have any questions concerning firearms related legislation or litigation, please contact John F.Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.