D.C. City Councilmember Tommy Wells

The buzz in Washington, D.C., is that the city council is working toward banning all plastic firearms created by 3D printers.  Lawmakers in New York and California are also rallying to pass similar measures after so much publicity stemming from Defense Distributed successfully firing its 3D printed .380 caliber "Liberator" handgun.

The District of Columbia has some of the strictest gun-control laws in the nation, but current law does not apply to plastic guns printed at home.  D.C. city councilmember Tommy Wells hopes to change that, calling 3D printed guns "a significant and immediate threat to public safety."

California State Senator Leland Yee recently expressed similar concerns and hopes to pass a bill that would outlaw 3D printed guns from being built outside of the factories where firearms are legally assembled.

On the federal level, Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) has frequently mentioned the threat of 3D printed guns in his efforts to renew the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which bans guns that can defeat airport metal detectors.

Even if the Act is renewed, people could still comply with the law by including a metal slug in their 3D printed plastic firearms, as Defense Distributed did.  What concerns some lawmakers is the chance that others might eventually forgo the metal slug.

In any case, enforcing a ban on the personal manufacture of plastic firearms could prove challenging.  At present, in the U.S., "a person can manufacture a firearm for their own use," Donna Sellers of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives explained to the BBC.  "However, if they engage in the business of manufacture to sell a gun, they need a license."

Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson

Defense Distributed recently received an ATF license, clearing it to make and sell guns. Cody Wilson, the company's chief executive officer and the creator of the Liberator, told the BBC that he sees a world "where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want.  It's not up to the political players anymore."

Apparently, a lot of people agree.  Just 48 hours after making it available online, the file used to produce the 3D-printed Liberator was downloaded 100,000 times.  But for now, other interested parties will have to wait, because the State Department sent the folks at Defense Distributed a letter on May 8 telling them to remove all related data from public access.

In the letter, the State Department says that Defense Distributed may have released technical data without the required prior authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), a violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which would put the company's actions in conflict with the Arms Export Control Act.