R.I. Aims to Ban 3D-Printed Guns Before They Become an Issue

With 3D printers, anybody can create undetectable and untraceable guns made of materials like plastic, something that Rhode Island elected officials want to crack down on before they become a problem.

by Patrick Anderson, The Providence Journal / February 13, 2019

(TNS) — Untraceable plastic guns have yet to become a problem in Rhode Island, and a state lawmaker wants to keep it that way by banning the creation of 3D printed firearms.

Sen. Cynthia Coyne, a Barrington Democrat, has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to "manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive" any gun that can't be detected by common airport screenings, or one that is made entirely though 3D printing.

"As we struggle to fight the gun epidemic in this country and make it more difficult for children, criminals and the mentally ill to possess firearms, 3D-printed guns would suddenly make it easier for anyone worldwide to do just that," Coyne said in a news release. "Anyone with Internet access and a 3D printer would be able to make weapons that are undetectable and — since they have no serial numbers — untraceable."

A 3D printer produces physical objects from digital files by applying layers of material, most commonly plastic. Plastic 3D-printed guns often use a removable metal firing pin or have other metal parts to get around a federal ban on weapons that aren't picked up by metal detectors.

Last summer Rhode Island, under then-Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, joined 18 other states and the District of Columbia suing to block a Texas company from publishing free design files for a 3D-printed gun after the company had settled an earlier objection from the Trump administration. A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction blocking the company, Defense Distributed, from sharing the files until the case can be decided.

Coyne, whose husband worked for Kilmartin when Rhode Island joined the suit against Defense Distributed, was a former state police lieutenant.

The Rhode Island State Police have yet to seize any 3D-printed guns and have not suspected them in any crimes here, said spokeswoman Laura Meade Kirk, although wire taps used in the investigation of northwestern Rhode Island biker gangs last spring picked up suspects discussing the technology.

Anyone caught violating the ban under Coyne's bill, which also prohibits firearms made wholly of plastic or fiberglass, would face up to 10 years in jail or a $10,000 fine.

"With 3D guns, criminals seeking guns would be able to bypass background checks, age restrictions and gun-licensing rules," Coyne said in the release. "This is a terrifying precedent, a blow to public safety and a huge potential tragedy in the making. We must not wait for the federal government or the courts to solve this problem."

Banning 3D-printed guns was one of the recommendations of Gov. Gina Raimondo's Working Group for Gun Safety last fall.

"The governor hasn't reviewed the specifics of this bill, but she is fully supportive of banning 3D-printed guns," said Raimondo spokesman Josh Block.

Raimondo is expected to release a package of gun-control legislation soon.

Frank Saccoccio, top lobbyist for the Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition, said Tuesday said he would withhold comment on Coyne's bill until he had had a chance to read it.

Attorney General Peter Neronha supports Coyne's 3D-printed gun ban bill, spokeswoman Kristy dosReis said Tuesday.

So far at least, there is no matching House version of the 3D-printed firearm ban in the House.

©2019 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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