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Some things are legal only because a law has yet to forbid them. For example, take the home manufacture of un-serialized, untraceable, “ghost guns.” Building your own firearm is not a federal crime, and people have been doing it for years. The time and expense required have kept the hobby to a very niche market. However, a confluence of events is changing the dynamic. As gun-grabbers make the purchase of commercially manufactured weapons ever more difficult, the market has responded by harnessing technological innovation to bring home manufacturing of firearms within reach of more gun enthusiasts.
3-D printing is one such technology that makes building your own weapon an easier task. The problem with this is that the durability of plastic materials makes them less preferable to metal gun parts. In order to make the required bits out of metal, one has, until now, needed an expensive mill, the cost of which made the project unrealistic for most consumers. One company, Defense Distributed, solved the problem by creating a small CNC mill capable of creating AR-15 lower receivers at a price affordable to almost anyone who wants to make his own semi-automatic rifle. Pre-sales of the machine sold out in less than two days after its announcement. There is, however, a problem. The manufacturer cannot get the machines to its customer because both FedEx and UPS have refused to deliver the mills.
Although no legal prohibition exists, the culture of fear surrounding firearms is creating a market pressure against the home milling machines sufficient to prevent their delivery to end users. This is interesting because there is also a market demand for the machines. Some might believe this is just the free market working out the problem, but I question whether or not that really is the case. I write this because the pressure bearing down on the shippers is legal and political rather than commercial. The statement by UPS makes this clear:
UPS reserves the right to refuse to provide transportation service for, among other reasons, any shipments that create legal, safety or operational concerns. UPS is continuing to evaluate such concerns with regard to the transportation of milling machines used to produce operable firearms but, at this point in time, will not accept such devices for transportation.
FedEx was vague on their reasoning, but it seems clear that these companies are refusing to do business with a particular manufacturer because they fear government reprisal. So, I put the question to the Ricochetti: is this a case of the free market working or is this a case of the market being stifled by government interference even before there is a law forbidding the activity?
Photo Credit: Defense Distributed.