Published February 16, 2013
Gun owners who can't buy high capacity ammo magazines because of new laws have another option: Print them.
Gun control measures passed or proposed in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre have targeted magazines that can feed 30 rounds or more into the firing chambers of AR-15s and other semi-automatic guns. New York has banned magazines holding more than seven rounds, and a federal bill proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would ban magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
But the laws are at least one step behind technology. Using 3D printers and schematics available on the Internet, gun owners can manufacture a fully functional, plastic magazine clip. Plans are free, although getting access to a 3D printer may prove expensive, at least for now.
“If you can download it, you can have it,” said University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, who is part of Defense Distributed, a group that has created the design for what they refer to as a “Cuomo Clip” along with other gun parts. It is all under an initiative they refer to as the Wiki Weapon Project.
“It’s basically to head them [legislators] off at the pass, which we have,” Wilson added, noting that “hundreds of thousands” of visitors have gone to his group's site to download the CAD file for the ammo magazine since it was first posted in mid-January.
The “Cuomo Clip,” named for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed the high-capacity clip ban through the Legislature, is made from a plastic filament similar to the type of material used to manufacture LEGO building blocks. It is also loaded with a large spring that helps to push rounds of ammo into the gun chamber.
The ammo magazine clip appears to be durable; Defense Distributed test-fired 86 rounds from a 30-round prototype last month, and the clip showed no signs of damage.
The cutting edge technology, in which three-dimensional objects can be manufactured from melted plastic thread, is likely to complicate efforts to control firearms. No such ability existed in 1994, when large-capacity clips were first banned in an initial federal assault weapons ban that lasted a decade.
Although the new ban proposed by Feinstein would prohibit the manufacture of magazines, it focuses on traditional arms makers and sellers. How the law might be enforced against individuals making their own magazines -- and possibly even guns in the future -- is unclear.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., has called for amending the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, which initially sought to ban guns that could be sneaked through metal detectors, to include a ban on “homemade, 3-D printed, plastic high-capacity magazines."
“Congress passed a law banning plastic guns for two decades when they were just a movie fantasy," Israel told FoxNews.com. "With the advent of 3-D printers, these guns are suddenly a real possibility, and the law Congress passed is set to expire this year.
“We should act now to give law enforcement authorities the power to stop the development of these weapons before terrorists and criminals can easily bring them on planes. We need to be proactive and keep ahead of the technology. When the legislation was originally passed in 1988, no one would have imagined that parts of a gun and a magazine could be made with a printer — imagine what the technology will be even five years down the road.”
Defense Distributed and the Wiki Weapons Project also has made schematics of other parts of the AR-15 and other weapons and modifications, including pistol grips, but has avoided attempting to design and distribute plans for a fully-functional gun.