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3D-printed guns could be outlawed in California

Senator Leland Yee plans to introduce legislation to ban 3D-printed gun technology in order to "ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences."

Screenshot from a video by Defense Distributed showing the "Liberator" 3D-printed handgun being used.
Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

With gun control battles raging among federal and state legislators, it was inevitable that the issue of 3D-printed handguns would come up, especially with such a gun now available.

California Senator Leland Yee announced Tuesday his plan to propose a law that would ban the technology used to create 3D-printed guns.

"While I am as impressed as anyone with 3-D printing technology and I believe it has amazing possibilities, we must ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences," Yee said in a statement. "I plan to introduce legislation that will ensure public safety and stop the manufacturing of guns that are invisible to metal detectors and that can be easily made without a background check."

Defense Distributed, a Texas-based group working toward nonprofit status, announced last week that it had created the world's first 3D-printed handgun. The gun is capable of firing standard handgun rounds and is made entirely of plastic, except for a nail used as a firing pin and a six-ounce piece of steel designed solely to allow the gun to be detected by metal detectors.

Cody Wilson, head of Defense Distributed, announced plans to produce a 3D-printed gun last year. It took just eight months for Wilson and others in Defense Distributed to produce a gun they call the "Liberator."

The Liberator can be instantly downloaded and anonymously printed by anyone who has access to 3D-printing technology, which is most likely the concern for lawmakers. According to Forbes, the 3D-printed gun's blueprints have already been downloaded more than 100,000 times in just the past two days. The U.S. is currently outpacing all other countries in downloads.

Proposed legislation to limit these weapons in the U.S. already exists. New York Congressmen Steve Israel and Chuck Schumer have sponsored legislation that aims to add a 3D-printing provision to the U.S. Undetectable Firearms Act, which requires that all guns be capable of being detected by law enforcement tools.

While most likely opposed to such legislation, Wilson told CNET that he believes Yee's legislation will probably be even further reaching than what Israel and Schumer proposed.

"There is already a federal ban on undetectable firearms, so Yee's bill is very likely a deeper regulation of the technology's use, as he indicates in his statement," Wilson told CNET.