New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Forthcoming, LAW & CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS (Symposium Issue on 2nd Amendment)


Cory Wilson's demonstration of a a functional 3D-printed firearm attracted enormous media attention and calls for Congressional (and state) action to prohibit manufacture of guns that evade metal detectors and, lacking serial numbers, are untraceable. Moreover, 3-D firearms makers would avoid background checking. The Obama Administration banned Wilson's software from the Internet, thus sparking a statutory and constitutional (First and Second Amendment) challenge. This Article explains the litigation and assesses the Second Amendment arguments, while placing the 3-D printed firearms controversy in the context of the U.S.'s long history of unregulated personal gunsmithing. The authors see no constitutional impediment to regulating or prohibiting 3_D printed firearms, but illuminate the implementation and enforcement problems. Any regulatory scheme should encompass all gunsmithing technologies, not just 3-D printing.

Date of Authorship for this Version