Someone asked me during a radio interview today how worried I was about Joe Biden’s plan to ban and confiscate (with the promise of some type of compensation) tens of millions of legally-owned firearms and over 150-million ammunition magazines. My response is that I’m deeply concerned, but I’m not panicked, and I don’t think other gun owners should be either.
I don’t think there’s any way that Biden’s gun ban gets 60 votes in the Senate, so in order to get it to his desk Democrats are going to have to use some sort of parliamentary trick; either budget reconciliation, which allows tax and spending bills to be approved with a bare majority, or through amending another piece of legislation with the ban, which is what Biden himself apparently favors.
Democrats could also decide to go nuclear and remove the filibuster for legislation, allowing bills to pass with 51 votes in the Senate. If that comes to pass, however, we’ll have more to worry about than just Biden’s gun ban, because that would be part of a broader assault on our civil rights and civic institutions like the Supreme Court.
Assuming that Democrats decide to keep the filibuster intact, we’ll be able to challenge any gun control bills approved by Congress in the legal system, and we’re already starting to see states express renewed interest in their powers under the Tenth Amendment to passively resist enforcing new federal gun laws.
Beyond the legal and legislative bulwarks that remain as protections for our right to keep and bear arms, there’s also the simple fact that gunmaking is becoming increasingly democratized. Yes, the Biden administration is targeting unfinished frames and receivers in an attempt to stop Americans from making their own unserialized and unregisterable guns, but the technology just keeps getting better and better, to the point that it’s now entirely possible to make most of what you need to build an AR-15 straight from your 3D printer.
On Jan. 1, Chase Tkach—chair of the Orleans County, New York, Libertarian Party, also known as porn actor Molly Smash—uploaded two fast-flashing, dubstep-tuned theatrical trailers to their Pornhub channel. The videos were promoting cheap, untraceable, 3D-printed, plastic, DIY, semi-automatic guns. That’s because Tkach likes guns, specifically unregulated ones. And homemade guns are so hot right now.
Despite the fact that anti-gun activists like to portray gun owners as a bunch of slackjawed, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, middle-aged rednecks, the Second Amendment community is large enough to comfortably encompass a libertarian sex worker who uses they/them pronouns and embraces the right to keep and bear arms; particularly handmade firearms printed at home.
3D printing of guns isn’t exactly new, but as Slate notes in a new piece on the future of homemade guns, the technology took a big step forward last spring with the release of a “design for a 100 percent homemade semi-automatic rifle that not only shoots 9 mm ammo exceptionally well but is durable enough to withstand thousands of rounds.” The FGC-9 (or F*** Gun Control 9mm) is a huge leap forward for home-built firearms.
Most of the gun is 3D-printed, while the rest includes inconspicuous parts available at hardware stores. The files include detailed instructions to help anyone—even if they don’t have technical knowledge—build their own. They explain which 3D printer to buy, how to cast DIY ammo at home, and how to modify a metal tube in your bedroom to turn it into a gun barrel. The metal means the gun can’t sneak past metal detectors, but it also means there are no consequences for owning one in the U.S. 3D-printed guns are legal, as long as they can be picked up by a metal detector.
If you already have a 3D printer (the recommended one is about $250) and basic hand tools, it costs about $100 for the rest of the tools to build the barrel, then about $100 in supplies for each gun after that. For reference, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport (a popular midtier AR-15-style rifle) starts at about $750 off the shelf. A technically inclined builder could make an FGC-9 in less than a week. Someone with no experience could possibly learn everything they need and build it in a couple of weeks.
Now, Joe Biden and his anti-gun allies in Congress could just impose a ban on 3D-printed firearms, but a ban alone doesn’t change the reality on the ground. Or rather, it does change reality, but not in the way gun control activists expect. They seem to believe that once a ban has been passed, it’s automatically effective. History, however, tells us otherwise.
“When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” as the saying goes. The fact is that bad laws create outlaws out of otherwise law-abiding citizens. How many criminals were created by Prohibition’s edicts banning the sale of alcohol, for example, and why would anyone believe that criminalizing the Second Amendment wouldn’t lead to similar results?
The technology to build your own gun is out there, and it’s easier than ever to do so, as Slate reluctantly admits.
It’s hard to imagine stopping it, short of banning 3D printers or metal pipes. Even regulating the distribution of the designs wouldn’t do much. The designs are distributed using a blockchain, so there’s no central server to take down. And the FGC-9 designs have already been viewed more than 44,000 times just on the original site they were uploaded to—they have been replicated elsewhere, for who knows how many people.
It’s a volatile time for gun owners in America. On Feb. 14, the third anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass stricter gun control, including a ban on assault weapons. The future of firearms in the U.S. may be one where assault weapons can only be obtained by purchasing them on the black market or building them at home. The latter is now a viable option.
And if that’s the only viable option, then many Americans are going to turn to it, even if it means breaking the law to do so. I’m not advocating this, but I know enough about American history and our culture to know that would be the end result of Americans losing their right to possess some of the most commonly-owned arms in the country.
From a constitutional perspective, Biden’s gun ban is an infringement on our civil rights. From a public safety perspective, it’s unnecessary, since the vast majority of violent crimes don’t involve the guns Biden wants to ban. And from a practical perspective, Biden’s ban is unworkable, because technology allows actors both good and bad to easily get around it.
Even if Biden and Democrats were to somehow impose a ban on .223 ammunition, the FGC-9 uses 9mm, one of the most common calibers around. Rather than acknowledge that technology has made a gun ban unfeasible, however, the anti-gun crowd is likely to double down on their attempt to curtail the Second Amendment rights of their fellow Americans. An ineffective gun ban would lead to calls for an ammo ban, which would also probe ineffective, leading to calls to increase the penalties for being found in possession of the banned items. When that didn’t work, gun control activists would inevitably continue to seek to impose even more restrictions, hoping to find that perfect set of laws that will actually work to stop criminals from using guns in acts of violence.
Democrats and gun control activists refuse to even consider the possibility, but the fact is that gun control is as viable a solution to the problems of violent crime and suicide as banning alcohol was to preventing all of its associated evils in the 1920s. The “cure” is certain to come with some unanticipated side effects (at least unanticipated by the proponents of a gun ban), including widespread civil disobedience by otherwise law-abiding citizens. Gun control groups talk a lot these days about criminal justice reform, but by criminalizing the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms they’re proving themselves to be just as willing to lock up millions of non-violent offenders as the Anti-Saloon League was 100 years ago.