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Bill Aims to Help State “catch Up” to 3D-printed Guns

August 9, 2018

BOSTON -- Anyone who is not a federally licensed firearm manufacturer would be prohibited from making a gun with a 3D printer, under a bill filed Tuesday by a Natick Democrat.

Rep. David Linksy’s bill would also require that any legally made 3D-printed guns officially receive a serial number, and that anyone who possesses a 3D-printed gun be subject to the same licensing requirements in place for traditionally manufactured firearms.

“What we know is that the technology of 3D-printers is getting better and cheaper all the time, and like technology in many other areas, the technology is frequently ahead of what the law is, and the law has to catch up,” Linsky said Wednesday afternoon.

The bill was filed eight days after a federal judge granted a request from a group of attorneys general, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, for a temporary injunction blocking the company Defense Distributed from posting files online allowing individuals to make guns using 3D printers.

The lawsuit and bill are part of a multi-front approach to combat 3D-printed guns, Linsky said. He said the relatively new technology could allow someone who is not eligible for a gun license in Massachusetts to “go around the entire permitting and produce their own weapon.”

“We realize that those individuals out there attempt to purchase weapons on the black market illegally as it is, but let’s try to cut off every avenue that exists out there, both through enforcement of the existing laws and updating those laws to make sure that they cover advances in technology,” he told the News Service.

Last week, when Linksy first said he was working on a 3D-printed guns bill, Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts director Jim Wallace described the uproar over such weapons as “a little bit tilting at a windmill.”

“I don’t see it as a big public safety problem because unfortunately, I don’t see a problem for criminals getting real guns,” Wallace said then. “We haven’t been able to cut that pipeline off yet. I’m not sure a criminal is going to bother getting the technology - the printer, the materials, the plans - just to make a gun that’s probably going to blow up in their hands the first time they use it.”

Wallace said it is legal for people to make their own “real guns” if they have the parts.

Eleven other representatives and two senators, all Democrats, have signed on to Linsky’s bill as cosponsors.

Until the new legislative term begins in January, both the House and Senate will be meeting only in informal sessions, during which any one lawmaker’s objection can block a bill.

Linsky said he doesn’t know if his bill could pass in an informal session.

“I haven’t had a discussion with leadership about that,” the 10-term lawmaker said. “Having been in the Legislature a long time, I fully recognize both the difficulties of moving bills in the informal sessions and moving firearms-related bills in general, but I do think it’s important to file the bill now to, number 1, start the discussion for the next session, and number 2, to be prepared to move either in this session or quickly next session if the public safety situation demands it.”

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