3-D guns in Texas need action now
If someone found a loophole that allowed him to sell illegal drugs online, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton would be motivated to find a way to stop that. He should have the same approach to continuing efforts by an Austin man to sell or give away the blueprints for plastic 3-D guns.
Attorneys general from nine states and the District of Columbia have sued to stop this dangerous activity, but Texas isn’t on the list. In our state, apparently, even the most minimal action against some kind of gun or gun owner is politically risky.
The person behind all this, Cody Wilson of Austin, was initially ordered by a federal judge to stop sharing free blueprints for the 3-D guns online. Wilson is trying to get around that by technically selling the plans instead, but he is accepting bids for just a few dollars, or one dollar. That is of course virtually the same thing as giving them away. In fact, Wilson “sold” the plans to one customer for a price of $0, which is literally free.
Under this latest gambit, Wilson initially sold nearly 400 3-D blueprints and has undoubtedly increased that number in recent days. He thinks he could eventually sell hundreds of thousands of them. Every day he is allowed to flout the intent of a federal judge’s order, more of these blueprints are distributed. Anyone with a 3-D printer can then produce a crude handgun — even if he or she is legally prevented from buying guns because of felony conviction, restraining order or mental illness.
As we have noted before, these 3-D guns are primitive and usually fall apart after firing a few rounds. But they are made of plastic, not metal, and could be missed by a metal detector at a courtroom, airport or school. As crude as the guns are now, they still fire a bullet. They could kill someone at close range or be used to seize a hostage or hijack an airplane.
Given the pace of technology, future versions of these guns will probably be more effective, and thus more enticing to those who can’t buy or possess guns legally. The time to stop all this is now, while relatively few plans have been downloaded and the guns are still basic.
Legal cases like this shouldn’t get trapped in the usual debate about the rights of gun owners. Most Texans revere the Second Amendment and use guns responsibly. But virtually all gun owners believe that weapons should not be owned by certain criminals or the mentally ill. Most Texas gun owners probably wouldn’t want to bother with a crude 3-D gun. This case does not affect them and will not lead to some other type of gun restriction.
Texas officials — like the attorney general — should realize this and act accordingly.