A lot of what President Trump claims is fake news isn’t fake. It’s real.
But the ongoing meltdown over plastic guns — I’m guessing you have heard about how Trump is “now” allowing criminals and terrorists to create untraceable “3D-printed guns” — is playing right into the president’s hands. Because it is very much fake news — catastrophically fake.
And it’s coming from people who ought to know better, who are paid to know better. People like attorneys general and members of Congress.
Among the reasons it is so perniciously fake is that elements of it are obviously true. It is now possible, using a 3D printer, to make a plastic gun that is indeed untraceable, can fire lethal bullets and can easily be destroyed to eliminate it as evidence.
In other words, like any other gun, it is a deadly weapon.
It’s just that the use of the word “now” is highly misleading. It is also “now” possible to send text messages with your smartphone. But that didn’t just happen last week because of Trump — it has been true for years.
Same for plastic guns. The technology — and blueprints — to make them with 3D printers have also existed for years, at least five. Which, if you take a moment to think about it (apparently too much for some attorneys general and elected officials) that is long before Trump was even campaigning for president.
Never mind. If there’s a way to make it look like Trump is out to enable the slaughter of more innocent people, why let facts get in the way?
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who pays less and less attention to what is going on in her own state so she can spend more of her time suing Trump in ongoing attempts to raise her national profile, posted a video that claims, “Downloadable guns are a real thing because of the Trump administration. ... Individuals will now be able to log on to a website and, if they have access to a 3D printer, print fully functional and totally undetectable firearms.”
Because of the Trump administration? Wrong. Fake.
The reason the issue has erupted in Washington, in statehouses, on social media and the media in general is because of a recent settlement by the Justice Department of a lawsuit brought by a company called Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation, an advocacy group.
The two organizations challenged the Obama administration’s decision in 2013 to apply federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations to Defense Distributed, in order to block it from posting blueprints that people with 3D printers could use to make a handgun or a part of a rifle called the AR-15.
The heart of the case was that it wasn’t really about making guns. It was about providing information. And as we all ought to know — but especially lawyers — providing information about how to do something isn’t the same as doing it. You can’t be charged with making meth just because you posted instructions about how to do it online.
Before the settlement, the Fifth Circuit Court noted that making those plastic pistols or rifle parts “is legal for United States citizens and will remain legal for United States citizens regardless of the outcome of this case.”
Also before the settlement — and after the settlement too! — the Undetectable Firearms Act made (and makes) it illegal to make or possess a weapon that is undetectable by walk-through metal detectors.
When was that law passed? In 1988 — 30 years ago — long, long before 3D printed guns were “a real thing.” Which means the problem of undetectable guns is not a new one just “now” created by the Trump administration.
And the settlement doesn’t make them legal.
Beyond that, among the things you are likely not hearing is that U.S. citizens have been allowed to make their own guns for personal use, without needing a license, since the country was founded. You only need a license to make them for sale or distribution.
Yet we still had U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle issuing a temporary restraining order last week that, at least for now, blocks Defense Distributed from publishing its blueprints for 3D printable guns.
And that has made Lasnik a hero for the gun-control crowd, who claim this will keep untraceable guns out of circulation.
We have faux populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeting, “We know 3D printed guns are dangerous — we don’t need to wait for the NRA to give Republicans its blessing. Glad to see MA leading the fight to keep these untraceable weapons off our streets.”
Really, senator? That’s all it takes to eliminate guns like that? Then you and Attorney General Healey should get on the phone right now and demand that Judge Lasnik also issue an injunction or restraining order to shut down the so-called Dark Web — the “underground” version of the Internet where terrorists, drug dealers, pedophiles, hackers and other criminals conduct business, in most cases beyond the reach of law enforcement. Think of how many lives you could take credit for saving then.
Or, maybe you should talk to some younger members of your staffs who might have some clue about how the internet actually works.
As one cybersecurity expert tweeted, amid all the clueless posturing on this issue, “Just a reminder, @DefDist printed gun files have been available on @github and Pirate Bay for five years.”
And they still are. Your favorite search engine will bring up multiple options yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Not wanting to let fake news go to waste, Democrats have filed a bill that would make it illegal to publish 3D printer gun designs online. Good luck with that — unless they think U.S. laws rule both the internet and the world.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.