February 12, 2019

Menendez, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Block Trump Admin Push to Allow Unfettered Proliferation of Untraceable, 3D Printable Guns, Weaken Controls over Foreign Arms Sales

WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined today by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) in introducing legislation to block the Trump Administration’s efforts to weaken controls over foreign arms sales and allow for the unfettered proliferation of untraceable, virtually undetectable, 3D printable guns that threaten public safety.

The Trump Administration announced earlier this month that it has taken steps to transfer control of the export of semi-automatic pistols, assault-style rifles, sniper rifles and ammunition from the United States Munition List under the authority of the Department of State to the less-stringent controls of the Department of Commerce.  It would also transfer the control of the technical information and blueprints for 3D printing of nearly undetectable firearms to Commerce, where the lax regulations will facilitate the Internet publication worldwide.  These moves are also designed to strangle Congressional oversight.

“These changes defy common sense, undermine public safety and undercut our national security.  The only ones cheering these ill-advised moves are the NRA and U.S. gunmakers,” said Sen. Menendez.  “Small arms and associated ammunition are uniquely lethal.  They are easily spread and easily modified, and are the primary means of injury, death, and destruction in civil and military conflicts throughout the world.  Every terrorist and criminal that wants to hijack an airplane with Americans onboard will more easily be able to smuggle 3D printed, virtually undetectable guns aboard.  Every school, every government facility, every hospital, here and abroad, will become even more vulnerable to gun violence through this change.  This is madness.” 

“Our laws have not kept up with the pace of technology, especially when it comes to the manufacturing of firearms,” said Sen. Murphy. “The Trump administration basically gave anyone – including criminals and murderers – a green light to 3D print and sell untraceable ‘ghost guns.’ Thankfully, the courts have blocked this for now, but Congress needs to act to close this glaring loophole before anyone gets killed.”

“We now live in a world where a 3D printer cartridge can become as deadly as a gun cartridge,” said Sen. Markey. “These homemade 3D firearms are the ultimate gun show loophole -- they are untraceable and in some instances, undetectable. We need to stop the spread of these firearms before they become a public health crisis and the latest addition to the terrible scourge of gun violence that is already plaguing our country.”   

“A firearm is a firearm, period. It is illogical and dangerous to make blueprints widely available so that anyone can build their own gun. Gun kit manufacturers and distributors must be held to the same regulatory standards for similar firearms,” said Sen. Cardin. “Small arms and light weapons are among the most lethal weapons that we and other countries export because these are the weapons that are most likely to be used to commit atrocities and suppress human rights, either by individuals, non-state groups, or governmental security and para-military forces. The threat of untraceable 3D weapons increases the dangers exponentially. The United States should never make it easier for foreign despots, paramilitary or terrorist groups to slaughter or threaten people.”

“The Trump administration’s efforts to increase exports of numerous weapons, including blue prints to make 3D weapons, are dangerous. Our bill would put a stop to this policy change, reducing the number of dangerous weapons on the global market,” said Sen. Feinstein.

The Stopping the Traffic in Overseas Proliferation of Ghost Guns Act would outright prevent this transfer, and therefore maintain the strict controls over firearms and 3D printed “ghost gun” information that currently exist on the United States Munitions List.  It would also keep Congressional oversight and legislative disapproval of such sales, which the Trump Administration is also trying to circumvent.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Prohibit the transfer of small arms/light weapons, and the technical manufacturing information related to them (including 3D Printed guns), to the Department of Commerce;
  • Maintain the statutory restriction on publishing 3D Printing gun information, including via the Internet;
  • Prohibit the ability of the State Department to suspend the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations without 30-day prior notice to Congress.

Sen. Menendez was an outspoken opponent of the Trump Administration’s action last year allowing a Texas company to publish the downloadable designs for 3D printable firearms, which was later blocks by the courts, and has taken a series of additional actions to prevent the proliferation of untraceable, undetectable 3D printed guns. He called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to intervene and reverse his department’s decision and spoke out about his decision at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Senators Menendez  and Markey also co-authored two pieces of legislation in the last Congress to combat the threat posed from the spread of 3D printable guns. The 3D Printing Safety Act and the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2018.  Sen. Menendez went to the Senate floor to try and unanimously pass this emergency bill, but Republicans blocked the vote.  He also held a press conference in Cliffside Park, N.J., with local officials and Moms Demand Action to rail against 3D guns

In August, Senators Menendez, Markey and Feinstein called on the CEO’s of Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Craigslist, Reddit and Twitter to proactively block any distribution of 3D gun blueprints on their platforms.  

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