Anti-Gun Lawmaker Targets 3D-Printed Firearms

We’re starting to see the introduction of gun control bills in many state legislatures as we near the start date of the 2021 legislative sessions, and though it’s early yet, a proposal by Florida state Senator Linda Stewart is already a solid contender for the dumbest gun control bill of the year.

Stewart, a Democrat from Orange County, isn’t going after modern sporting rifles or “large capacity” magazines with her new bill. Instead, she’s taking aim at 3D-printed firearms.

“These guns are undetectable and untraceable – meaning anyone with access to a 3D printer can gain access to a deadly firearm,” said Stewart. “This bill is about keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

How does Stewart propose to keep 3D printed guns out of the hands of people who “shouldn’t have them”? By requiring the makers of 3D-printed firearms to shove a hunk of metal in them. No, seriously.

Her bill, Senate Bill 372, would require 3D-printed firearms contain at least four ounces of metal and prohibit the use of specific plastic polymers in the creation of a 3D-printed firearm. The prohibited polymers are resilient enough to withstand the combustion required to fire a projectile and are undetectable by metal detectors.

I can’t begin to describe how incredibly idiotic this bill is. Does Stewart truly believe that an individual who’s making a 3D-printed gun to use in the commission of a crime is going to comply with her requirement to include four ounces of metal in the frame? Will they shy away from using materials like polyethylene terephthalate or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene if Stewart’s bill were to become law? Of course not. Criminals are going to continue to break the law, as criminals do, and Stewart’s proposal, if enacted, would be roundly ignored by the very people she’s hoping to target.

Under Stewart’s proposal, anyone in possession of a 3D-printed firearm that isn’t in compliance with her demands would be guilty of a felony-level offense in Florida, and the only recourse for those who might already have printed a gun like this would be to turn it over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or destroy the gun themselves.

Again, criminals aren’t going to to comply with those demands, but that’s not the only issue with Stewart’s legislation. How exactly does she propose enforcing her bill if it were to become law? Is the state going to try to keep track of people who purchase polycarbonate filament to use in 3D printers? Good luck with that, since Stewart’s legislation doesn’t actually ban any material used in 3D printers, but rather ban the use of specific materials in the manufacture of a specific item (an item, by the way, that is protected by both federal and state constitutions).

Linda Stewart claims her bill is all about “keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” but that’s not what the bill does at all. No criminal would be thwarted from using a 3D printer to make a gun, nor would they be prevented from making a gun using the illicit materials or making a gun without inserting four ounces of metal in the frame. Her bill does absolutely nothing to stop the manufacture or possession of 3D-printed firearms by prohibited persons, and it’s frankly embarrassing to see her bragging to the press about what an incredible piece of legislation this is.

Supply-side gun control laws are doomed to failure in a country with both a constitutional right to possess firearms and 400-million or so guns in private hands, but that’s not stopping Stewart from her quixotic quest to find the right combination of words that will make guns go away. If she’s truly concerned about keeping guns out of the hands of prohibited persons, she’d be introducing legislation that aims to reduce the demand for firearms among criminals, but instead she’s trying to crack down on legal gun owners and hobbyists.

Then again, Stewart is the same legislator who introduced a ban on so-called assault weapons and “large capacity magazines” in Florida back in 2019, so she’s got quite the track record of ignorance and hostility towards the Second Amendment.

The good news is that Stewart’s bill isn’t likely to make much progress in the Republican-controlled legislature, and I doubt that Gov. Ron DeSantis would sign the bill if it did make it to his desk. I’m curious to see if similar legislation is introduced in states that are more amenable to passing new gun control laws like New Jersey or California, however. Gun control activists have focused more on 80% frames and receivers rather than trying to ban or restrict possession of 3D-printed firearms in recent years, but that could change in the new year.