In Sacramento, California, the senate bill SB 808 has been passed by both the Assembly and the Senate, and has now been sent to California Governor and Democrat Jerry Brown for review. Bill SB 808, that was introduced by Democratic State Senator Kevin de Leon, aims to update existing firearm legislation to ensure that so-called ‘ghost guns’ are subject to similar legislation as ‘traditional’ firearms.
These ghost guns can currently be constructed in the privacy of your own home using 3D printers, but are as potentially lethal as other firearms. Their existence became worldwide news in 2013, though various examples are currently floating around the internet. Most of these can be relatively easily made from various plastic construction materials and printed on common 3D printers like RepRap or Makerbot.
The SB 808 bill aims to severely restrict those practices, however. As State Senator and driving force behind this bill, Kevin de Leon, explained on his website:
SB 808 holds those assembling personal guns to the same standard as all other gun owners by requiring a background check, a serial number to be obtained from the Department of Justice, and the gun must be registered with the Department of Justice. In order to receive a serial number, a self-made or assembled firearm must include permanent metal components that cannot be detached and that are detectable as required by existing law.
The bill will thus try to bring these weapons and their owners out of the shadows, and in that it is part of a growing effort throughout the world to pre-empt the spread of these home-made and undetectable firearms. The past few months, we have reported on various governmental crackdowns on 3D printed guns in, for instance, Japan.
However, The US’s current federal legislation concerning 3D printed guns – the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 – has been renewed unchanged in 2013. That legislation does make it illegal to own firearms that can slip past metal detectors, but does not include any provisions on the manufacturing of plastic firearms. California lawmakers are thus trying to go one step further than existing federal legislation through their introduction of registrations and background checks.
The exact amendments that this bill would make to existing gun legislation in California can be found here. Senator Kevin de León explained his motivation for curtailing 3D printed weapons on his website: “Technological advancements require that we update our laws to meet new and growing public safety concerns to make sure dangerous individuals cannot manipulate technologies at the expense of public safety.”
As this is bill isn’t law yet, it remains unclear how 3D printed guns will be exactly regulated. Nonetheless, California’s lawmakers hope that they will able to play a leading role in curtailing illegal guns throughout the United States. Amanda Wilcox, who is part of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence applauded their intentions, stating that, ‘It is essential that self-assembled or manufactured guns be regulated. Assembling rifles from “partial receivers” to evade the background check and record requirements threatens public safety. We applaud the legislature for addressing this problem.’