The Second Amendment Implications of Regulating 3D Printed Firearms

By: Michael L. Smith

Introduction: On May 1, 2013, the first firearm that had ever been produced with a 3D printer was successfully fired. Several weeks later, an engineer in Wisconsin used his own (relatively) cheap personal 3D printer to make a firearm that successfully fired nine shots. These two developments generated national media attention and prompted calls for restrictions on 3D printed firearms. But critics responded by arguing that restricting 3D printed firearms would violate the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

The issue of the Second Amendment implications of 3D printed firearms combines an emerging and evolving area of the law with an even more cutting-edge area of technology. The Second Amendment as an individual right is a recent development: before the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, it was far from clear whether the Second Amendment protected an individual right. In the wake of the Court’s decision in Heller, and its incorporation of Second Amendment rights to the states in McDonald v. City of Chicago, there has been an explosion in scholarly coverage of the Second Amendment as commentators attempt to draw out the implications and limits of the individual right to bear arms. 3D printing is an even more recent development – and courts and commentators are just beginning to address issues that this technology will raise.

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