New York weighs background checks for 3D printers

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(The Center Square) — New Yorkers would be required to undergo a criminal background check to buy 3D printers under a Democratic proposal being considered by the state Legislature.

The proposal, filed in the state Assembly, calls for regulating sales of 3D printers that can be used to make firearms or their components by requiring retailers to run background checks on prospective buyers.

It would also prohibit sales of 3D printers to anyone barred from having a New York firearm license because of a criminal offense.

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, said the bill was prompted by concerns that “ghost guns” can “be built by anyone using a $150 three-dimensional printer.”

“Currently, three-dimensional printers allow people to make, buy, sell, and use untraceable guns without any background checks,” Rajkumar, a Democrat, wrote in a summary of the legislation. “This bill will require a background check so that three-dimensional printed firearms do not get in the wrong hands.”

Industry officials criticized the proposal, pointing out that personal computers are used for all sorts of crimes, but you don’t need a federal background check to buy one.

“It’s silly because we don’t do background checks on pens just in case people want to do hate speech,” said Joris Peels, Editor-in-Chief of 3DPrint.com and a vice president at SmarTech Analysis, a research firm. “It will still be easier to drive to your nearest gun show.”

He said the move is a “slippery slope” that could eventually affect the benefits of low-cost 3D printing, especially in the manufacturing and education sectors, by restricting the use of the machines only to individuals or businesses with authorization.

The proposal is similar to one filed earlier this year in Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called the “3D Printed Gun Safety Act,” which would ban the distribution of blueprints for 3D printed firearms online.

Unlike commercially-made serialized firearms, “ghost” guns can be assembled using parts manufactured on milling machines and 3D printers. The weapons circumvent background checks, convicted felon restrictions and waiting periods because they are sold as components rather than a completed gun, authorities say.

While New York already has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, gun control advocates argue that the state needs to close “loopholes in the laws that have allowed untraceable “ghost” weapons to proliferate.

Second Amendment groups argue tougher gun controls are unnecessary and would only punish law-abiding owners while sidestepping the issue of illegal firearms. They point out that despite New York’s tough gun control laws, they haven’t prevented firearm homicides or violent crimes involving guns.

The National Rifle Association blasted Rajkumar’s proposal as “bogus” and unconstitutional in a blog post, saying it was unlikely to survive a legal challenge.

“The legislation is also silly from a practical standpoint,” the NRA said. “The truth is that gun offenders acquire firearms through avenues that are unlikely to be impacted by any government intervention, let alone a bizarre 3D printing law.”

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