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Phila. City Council Eyes Threat of Guns Made Using 3-D Printers

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(A plastic pistol and the 3D printer used to make it.  File photo by Robert MacPherson/ AFP/ Getty Images)

(A plastic pistol and the 3D printer used to make it. File photo by Robert MacPherson/ AFP/ Getty Images)

Steve Tawa Steve Tawa
Steve Tawa joined KYW Newsradio in 1990, and splits his time between...
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By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It may sound like science fiction, but Philadelphia City Council is considering whether to regulate 3-D printers because the technology allows do-it-yourselfers to use the devices to manufacture a working firearm.

Just as traditional printers lay ink on a page, 3-D printers can create physical objects by depositing layer upon layer of a plastic substance that hardens.

Philadelphia police captain Francis Healy is a special adviser to police commissioner Charles Ramsey.

“Regrettably, there have been documented cases where this remarkable technology has successfully created functioning firearms,” Healy told City Council today.   “While these guns were made of hard plastic and are often very crude at this point, several versions have actually been able to function effectively.”

Supporters say there are marvelous applications for 3-D printing in architecture and the automotive, aerospace, medical, and fashion industries, but Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says he just wants to regulate their use in the manufacture of guns.

“If that type of technology gets into the wrong hands… I mean, you only need one or two shots,” he said.

Councilman Curtis Jones says he is troubled that 3-D printers can replicate parts of a firearm while their plastic composition gives them the ability to evade metal detectors and security systems.

While the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has shot down previous attempts by Council to pass ordinances on gun control (including two failed attempts to ban assault weapons),  Councilman Johnson says they centered on “possession” or “transfer” of weapons.

Johnson says city lawyers believe the city can prohibit the use of 3-D printers to manufacture firearms.

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