Criminal Background Checks for 3D Printer Purchases? - Episode 320 - Show Notes

Criminal Background Checks for 3D Printer Purchases? - Episode 320

Sunday Nov 5, 2023 (00:38:53)


The proposed law requiring background checks for 3D printer purchases has sparked a debate on the regulation of technology and its potential dangers. This law, a version of which has already been passed in California, is being proposed in New York State and aims to limit the sale of 3D printers by requiring individuals to undergo a criminal background check before purchasing one. The reason behind this law is the fear that 3D printers can be used to print gun parts, thus posing a threat to public safety.

Proposed law requires background checks for 3D printer purchases

The premise of the law is that only 3D printers capable of printing gun parts would be subject to the background check. However, this shows a lack of understanding of the technology itself. Any 3D printer can be used to print a gun, as the necessary 3D imaging files can be found online and used with any normal 3D printer. There is no special "gun printer" required. Therefore, the law fails to address the actual issue at hand.

The proposed law raises concerns about the chilling effect it may have on the 3D printing industry as a whole. By subjecting 3D printers to the same regulations as guns, it creates an unnecessary burden for individuals who simply want to explore the creative possibilities of this technology. It also highlights a lack of understanding about the potential benefits and applications of 3D printing beyond producing firearms.

While the intention behind the law may be to ensure public safety, it is important to consider the broader implications and unintended consequences. Imposing criminal background checks on 3D printer purchases sets a precedent that could lead to further restrictions on technology and innovation. It also raises questions about the need for such checks on other consumer products. After all, one does not need a criminal background check to purchase a keyboard or a CPU.

The effectiveness of such a law

It is important to note that the effectiveness and danger posed by 3D-printed guns are still subject to debate. While some argue that these guns are a serious threat, others question their reliability and functionality. Most 3D-printed guns still require core components, such as a metal barrel, chamber, pin, and trigger, which cannot be printed using current technology. This means that even if someone were to print the outer shell of a gun successfully, they would still need traditional metal components for it to function properly.

Rather than focusing on restricting access to 3D printers, efforts should be directed towards educating individuals about responsible use and addressing the root causes of gun violence. By promoting safe and responsible use of 3D printing technology, we can harness its potential for innovation and creativity while minimizing any potential risks.


In conclusion, the proposed law requiring background checks for 3D printer purchases is a misguided attempt to regulate a technology that is still in its infancy. It fails to address the actual issue of 3D-printed guns and raises concerns about the potential chilling effect on the industry. Instead of imposing unnecessary restrictions, we should focus on education and responsible use to ensure the safe and beneficial development of 3D printing technology.


Scott Ertz


Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.

Avram Piltch


Avram's been in love with PCs since he played original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple II+. Before joining Tom's Hardware, for 10 years, he served as Online Editorial Director for sister sites Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he programmed the CMS and many of the benchmarks. When he's not editing, writing or stumbling around trade show halls, you'll find him building Arduino robots with his son and watching every single superhero show on the CW.

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