Americans now have the right to download digital blueprints for 3-D printing firearms in the comfort of their own homes, opening the door to untraceable guns that require no background checks to obtain.
A settlement earlier this year between the State Department and Texas-based Defense Distributed will let the nonprofit release blueprints for guns online starting Aug. 1, a development hailed by the group as the death of gun control in the United States.
"The age of the downloadable gun begins," Defense Distributed stated on its site. Its founder, Cody Wilson, tweeted a photograph of a grave marked "American gun control."
The plans being made freely available next month put firearms a few computer key clicks away from anyone with the right machine and materials. That reality has startled gun control advocates, who say it makes untraceable firearms all the more available.
Wilson’s legal battle was fought for years after his first printable gun code was uploaded to the internet and downloaded over 100,000 times — until the federal government stepped in and shut him down, citing international export law.
A lawsuit from Wilson followed. The State Department settled in June.
The Second Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit that partnered with Wilson in the lawsuit, put out a statement calling the settlement "a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby."
Homemade, untraceable guns are nothing new, USA Today noted, and are legal so long as they’re not sold after assembly.
Defense Distributed already sells parts that help users build their own untraceable firearms, known as "ghost guns" for their lack of serial numbers.
"Legally manufacture unserialized rifles and pistols in the comfort and privacy of home," one product's description states.
Former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official David Chipman told VICE News that such weapons were generally popular among hobbyists but more recently have attracted criminals.
“Criminals have started using ghost guns as a way to circumvent assault weapon regulations," said Chipman, now an adviser to the gun control advocacy group Giffords. "I imagine that people will also start printing guns to get around laws.”
Though printing guns at home sounds fairly easy, the equipment and materials needed to produce plastic firearms doesn’t run cheap:
The printers needed to make the guns can cost from $5,000 to $600,000, according to Vice News. The quality of plastic matters, too: An early design printed by federal agents shattered after one shot. A second gun, made from a higher grade resin, stayed intact.