Gun-control advocates are facing a very modern problem: Anyone with a computer and a 3D printer—which use plastic instead of ink—could theoretically become a gun maker. Websites offer blueprints that users can download; within hours, they'll have brand-new rifle parts or ammunition magazines, the Washington Post reports. And the fact that they could skirt any new regulations with ease is a "nightmare" for the politicians pushing for new restrictions, says a pro-gun lobbyist.
"There’s really no one controlling what you do in your own home," says Travis Lerol, a software engineer who's printed the plastic parts, which he has yet to test at a gun range. At least one site, Defense Distributed, has logged hundreds of thousands of blueprint downloads already. For the founder of that site, it's all about "a symbolic challenge to a system that says we can see everything, regulate everything ... My challenge is: Regulate this." While 3D printers may be expensive now (Lerol's cost $1,300), their prices are likely to drop as they gain popularity. New York Rep. Steve Israel says it's time to crack down on the threat by renewing and amending a law set to expire this year: 1998's Undetectable Firearms Act, which bars the manufacture of a gun that can slip past airport scanners; he wants it to also include plastic ammunition magazines. (Read more 3D printers stories.)