Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) proposed legislation to ban the possession of 3D-printed plastic guns and other undetectable “ghost guns” Monday.
The Ghost Guns Prohibition Emergency Amendment Act will amend existing legislation to prohibit the registration and possession of ghost guns, or unregistered firearms without serial numbers, in the District. If the act is passed, charges for possession of a ghost gun will be equivalent to those faced for possession of any illegal handgun, a crime punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
The act will clarify District legislation on the status of a ghost gun, defining it as an illegal firearm, D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue told The Washington Post.
“The purpose of the legislation is to make it crystal clear that a firearm manufactured in a 3D printer with plastic material is treated with the same rigor as our laws that govern the use and possession of traditional firearms,” Donahue said.
Ghost guns are often homemade and as a result bypass background checks and other regulations that would otherwise carry a record of the weapon. While production and possession of the guns is permitted under current federal law, owners must acquire a license to manufacture the guns for sale or distribution.
On July 31, a federal judge temporarily blocked the dissemination of blueprints providing instructions on how to build guns using a 3D printer after Defense Distributed, a Texas nonprofit organization, planned to publish the schematics online, according to The Washington Post. Despite the court’s actions, blueprints are available for sale to the public and the documents can be directly purchased from the organization in the form of a flash drive.
Although ghost guns are not prohibited under federal law, the law prohibits the manufacturing of firearms that are undetectable by a metal detector used at security checkpoints — a 3D-printed plastic gun containing no metal could be found in violation, according to The Washington Post.
As a result of the advanced capabilities for weapon making created by the advent of 3D printers, the Bowser administration saw a need for D.C. laws to be updated to reflect the changing technology and ensure the safety of D.C. residents, a representative from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice said in an interview with The Hoya.
Under existing D.C. legislation, ghost guns are not susceptible to seizure by law enforcement officers, unlike illegal handguns, which involve extensive tracking. Since the unregistered firearms cannot be seized, the Metropolitan Police Department does not keep track of the ghost guns they encounter, according to a representative from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.
D.C. is one of several jurisdictions nationwide which are debating measures imposing restrictions on self-built plastic guns following the federal ruling in July. Federal legislation that will prohibit the possession of ghost guns is waiting to be heard in Congress, according to The Washington Post.
The introduced amendment is part of the District’s ongoing process to expand restrictive gun laws in response to technological advances, Bowser said.
“From requiring stronger background checks to raising the purchase age, Americans want common-sense gun reform that makes it more difficult — not easier — for guns to fall into the wrong hands,” Bowser said in a Sept. 17 news release. “As technology around the production of undetectable guns advances, our federal government must take action to protect Americans from senseless gun violence.”