Two U.S. lawmakers are pushing for a ban on weapons that once seemed the stuff of science-fiction: Homemade plastic guns.
The first firearm made almost entirely out of plastic with 3-D printer technology was successfully fired by hand for the first time this weekend in Texas.
"We're facing a situation where anyone – a felon, a terrorist – can open a gun factory in their garage and the weapons they make will be undetectable. It's stomach-churning," Senator Charles Schumer told reporters on Sunday.
Defense Distributed, a group of 3-D firearms enthusiasts, designed the gun and posted free downloadable instructions for making the weapon on its website.
The pistol consists of 15 plastic parts made with a 3-D printer, which uses liquid resin and polymers to build up solid objects layer by layer. The prototype also uses a nail as a firing pin and has a block of steel in the body to comply with a U.S. law that bans firearms that aren't detectable by metal detectors or x-ray machines. It uses standard handgun ammunition.
However, anyone wishing to smuggle such a gun onto a plane or into a high-security area could easily forgo the "extraneous metal," said Congressman Steve Israel.
"Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser," he said in a news release.
Mr. Israel renewed his call to extend the ban on undetectable firearms, which expires this year and he said doesn't "clearly cover" plastic parts such as high-capacity magazines and receivers.
Firearms enthusiasts welcomed the arrival of the gun, which Defense Distributed calls the Liberator, posting complimentary messages on the group's website.
"Today is a good day. The Liberator is released, marking a huge step in wiki weapon technology," one user wrote.
A representative of Defense Distributed did not respond to an interview request. The non-profit group was founded by Cody Wilson, a University of Texas law student.
"We look to inspire and defend those who live (and are threatened to live) under politically oppressive regimes. Firearm Rights are Human Rights," the group says on its website.
It is unclear if the single-shot plastic weapon is durable enough to withstand multiple reloads and firings. The instructions recommend "printing multiple barrels and using each only once. Swapping the barrels is simple and fast…"
Defense Distributed has previously developed and shared templates to make gun components on its website. However, the Liberator is the first 3-D printable handgun.