Powerful New Weapon

This is purely hypothetical…

Let’s say I’m a really smart scientist and I have invented a powerful, laser-based death ray in my garage. I now have a weapon that is more powerful than anything the US military has disclosed so far.

I’m not threatening to use it against anyone, and I don’t belong to any group planning to overthrow our government or any other government. I’m not going to patent my invention since then everyone would know how it works.

So have I broken any laws? Could the government seize my invention to prevent me or anyone else from ever using it?

In other words, are there any laws preventing the average person from inventing a weapon more powerful than what the US government already has?

Not on a federal level, AFAIK. Only firearms and explosives are regulated. Flamethrowers and cutting lasers, for instance, are legal.

Some local laws might prohibit weapons in general though. Hell, pepper spray and batons are illegal in some states

I’m sure the existing laws against possessing weapons of Mass Destruction would cover such a device.

Ah, right. I am old.

BTW, is there even a definition of WMD?

I wish Gerry Bull thought like you.

it doesn’t matter if it is a weapon or a duck, if it is important enough the government will seek to control it. they’re not going to wait for a third-party to take it from you before they act.

I suppose it depends on whether you plan to keep your invention a secret or, say, hijack the nightly news broadcast and issue a manic tirade about its awesome destructive power.

In fact, you’re better off if it’s illegal - that way they’ll have grounds to arrest you. Otherwise you’ll just disappear.

If you did apply for a patent, your weapon would be covered under the Invention Secrecy Act, which was written to cover this very case.

I do know there’s a principle where ideas can be born secret where the government can classify your technology without your consent, at which point you cannot disseminate it any further without violating laws about releasing classified information. Obviously they’d have to find out about it first though.

All the cloak & dagger & secret disappearance implications aside, the guy I know who that happened to wrote a paper, submitted it for publication, and got a friendly visit from federal agents a few months later and was told the paper wouldn’t be published and he wasn’t allowed to give copies out to anyone else.

I don’t know about that - the federal law about WMDs covers bombs, homemade firearms, radiation, chemical weapons, biological weapons and the like, but nothing about energy weapons. You could maybe stretch the definition of “radiation” to include visible light, but that’s kind of ridiculous.

Lasers above a certain power are regulated at the federal level.

The BATF has a “catch all” regulation which covers rail guns and direct energy weapons in case you planned on selling this item as some type of gun. They would require that you seek approval to manufacture it and pay the appropriate taxes to do so.

Might be better to market it for some other purpose and allow others to then realize alternate uses for it.

Would that be under the “Destructive Device” label?

Title 27 CFR Chapter II Part 479.
They can legally cram ANY type of weapon manufactured in the form of a “gun” underneath that one.

Sorry to hijack, but what states are these? I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around a baton being illegal.

What you do isn’t manufacture it yourself, but rather grab an IP lawyer and a good contract lawyer and go try and license the technology to Raytheon or Lockheed Martin or another big defense manufacturer.

That way, you wouldn’t be on the hook for manufacturing weapons, and the guys with the really deep pockets could hook you up and work out the manufacturing, mounting and integration kinks with the military hardware.

In other words, you get paid for the good idea without having the problem of developing the idea into a fully formed weapon system.

Collapsible batons are illegal to civilians in those bastions of freedom NYC,Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Never know when they might be used against the masses

That’s odd. A good friend of mine in SF carries a collapsable baton. She’s an anarchist, though.

The NSA will be sending her name and data to the SFPD.
Tell her to surrender herself by noon Friday.:wink:

Here is the statute law for the state of California regarding various weapons:
2007 Dangerous Weapons Control Law 12020 thru 12040 Unlawful Carrying and Possession

ARTICLE 2. UNLAWFUL CARRYING AND POSSESSION OF WEAPONS 12020. (a) Any person in this state who does any of the following is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison: (1) Manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, or possesses any cane gun or wallet gun, any undetectable firearm, any firearm which is not immediately recognizable as a firearm, any camouflaging firearm container, any ammunition which contains or consists of any flechette dart, any bullet containing or carrying an explosive agent, any ballistic knife, any multiburst trigger activator, any nunchaku, any short-barreled shotgun, any short-barreled rifle, any metal knuckles, any belt buckle knife, any leaded cane, any zip gun, any shuriken, any unconventional pistol, any lipstick case knife, any cane sword, any shobi-zue, any air gauge knife, any writing pen knife, any metal military practice handgrenade or metal replica handgrenade, or any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, billy, sandclub, sap, or sandbag.

Several other states have similar laws. <archer>Fortunately, after fifteen years of boarding school locker room fights, I’m an AWESOME shot with a wet towel. I am a “zone” of “danger” at the pool. Get it? Get it? Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you OVER THE SOUND OF MY OWN AWESOMENESS!</archer>

With regard to “powerful new weapons”, you’ll either have the BATFE at your door demanding to collect taxes and examine your records and approvals per the previously referenced 27 CFR 479, subparts D, E, F, G, I, K, N, and O, the Department of Justice climbing up your asshole looking for Internatinoal Trafficing in Arms violations (pretty much anything you do including nothing at all will violate some ITAR restriction), or Samuel L. Jackson showing up at your door ‘inviting’ you to join ‘the Avengers Initiative’ which will consisted of a bunch of overprivliged child-men and one woman who would just as soon interrogate you and throw you off a ledge as to have coffee with you.

So…maybe just stick with your “Angry Birds”-killer iPhone app.


I think you need a better PR manager. Calling it a weapon sort of raises some red flags. Along the lines that instead of a nuclear bomb, calling it a Orion Spacecraft propulsion unit may help, perhaps in your case a high energy mining tool, or remote solar sail pusher would be a better category to place it in then a death ray weapon.