Paul Penzone is the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz.
Imagine a world in which anyone — including terrorists, convicted felons and domestic abusers — has immediate access to untraceable guns. Now imagine that many of these guns are made entirely of plastic or other materials not recognized by traditional metal detectors.
This unmanageable scenario may soon become a reality. In fact, as soon as Aug. 1, anyone with an Internet connection and a 3D printer — readily available in stores and online — will be able to make an untraceable handgun, rifle or assault weapon with just a few clicks. This is because the State Department has decided to allow a private company to post gun blueprints online for anyone to access. This is a reckless and dangerous action that will enable the uncontrolled distribution of downloadable, do-it-yourself firearms.
As sheriff of the fourth-largest and fastest-growing county in the nation, I know first-hand the threat such weapons pose to society. But it doesn’t require my 25 years of experience in law enforcement to know how dangerous firearms in the wrong hands can be. Downloadable guns undermine our federal and state gun-violence prevention laws, which help prevent people who pose a danger to themselves or others from accessing firearms. These laws are effective when law enforcement can conduct background checks and identify firearms through legally required serial numbers leading to a first point of purchase.
The ability to circumvent lawful and reasonable processes for purchase will undermine the work of all law enforcement. Our ability to trace guns recovered at crime scenes is a critical step in catching criminals and getting killers off our streets. Untraceable firearms will ultimately cripple investigations and provoke further violence by criminals.
Until recently, the State Department shared these concerns about the threat of downloadable, untraceable guns. For years, the agency had been fighting back a lawsuit from an online, open-source company that was forced by the department to pull down downloadable gun blueprints. That’s because the department considered the online posting of the technology a violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
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But the State Department reversed course a few months ago, unjustifiably and irresponsibly settling with the company and giving them a license to publish. And now, the company has scheduled to make its gun blueprints available online yet again on Aug. 1.
On that date, drug cartels, arms traffickers and terrorists will be able to increase their revenue and the volume of weaponry at the expense of our safety through an untraceable and unlimited method of firearms manufacturing and distribution. Ultimately, it is uncontrolled, irresponsible and unconscionable.
The State Department can stop this from happening by standing by its original decision to prevent digital, downloadable gun files from being posted online. This is absolutely a clear and present danger to public safety.