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Guns Are Now Just One Printer Click Away. Should We Be Very Afraid?

Guns Are Now Just One Printer Click Away. Should We Be Very Afraid?

Imagine downloading the blueprint of a gun to your computer, creating it on a three-dimensional printer, and actually firing it shortly afterwards. Far from President Obama’s push for tougher gun controls, there would be no background checks, no unexpected obstacles.

If this sounds like something out of Star Trek, it’s not.

Three-D printing has been around for decades, but has only caught the public eye over the last few years as the technology has become cheaper and more refined.

Printing in 3D may seem bizarre, but it is simply a way to create physical objects out of digital plans.  It’s not that different from clicking on the print button on a computer screen in order to send a digital file to an inkjet printer. But instead of ink, there’s a material that is deposited in successive, thin layers until a solid object emerges.

From The Economist:

The layers are defined by software that takes a series of digital slices through a computer-aided design. Descriptions of the slices are then sent to the 3D printer to construct the respective layers. They are then put together in a number of ways. Powder can be spread onto a tray and then solidified in the required pattern with a squirt of a liquid binder or by sintering it with a laser or an electron beam. Some machines deposit filaments of molten plastic. However it is achieved, after each layer is complete the build tray is lowered by a fraction of a millimetre and the next layer is added.

The long-term implications of this are huge: the printing of parts and products can transform manufacturing because it lowers the costs and risks. No longer do producers have to make thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of items to recover their fixed costs. Unlike mass manufacturing, 3D printing allows for a great deal of customizing: everyone can create exactly what they want with relative ease. In the future consumers could download products as they do digital music and print them out at home, or at a local 3D production center.

That’s going to take a while, but many people see the 3-D printer as heralding the next industrial revolution.

Well, that’s exciting, but how does this relate to guns?

A group called Defence Distributed claims to have created downloadable weapon parts that can be built using a 3-D printer. University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, the 24-year-old “Wiki Weapons” project leader, says the group last month test fired a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, one of the weapon types used in the Connecticut school massacre, which they had built with some key parts created on a 3-D printer. The gun was fired six times before it broke.

From The Economist:

They called their magazine “Cuomo”, after New York’s governor, who championed legislation banning magazines that hold more than seven rounds. Others have successfully printed stocks, grips and triggers, though not the chamber or the barrel of a weapon. That is much harder; but all this tinkering makes many people nervous.

Some of that fear may be overblown. Making a gun for personal use is usually not illegal, and home-made guns are nothing new. Ginger Colburn, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), says her agency has seen guns made from “pens, books, belts, clubs. You name it, people have turned it into firearms.”

Neverthless, US Representative Steve Israel is planning to introduce a bill which would renew and expand the Undetectable Firearms Act, which outlaws guns that can’t be detected by X-ray or metallic scanners. That law expires at the end of 2013.

Here’s a video of a printed gun being used:

Do you think guns created on a 3-D printer pose a real threat? How can they be regulated?

 

Related Care2 Coverage

18 States Already Allow Loaded Guns In Schools

6 Worst Reactions To The Newtown Massacre

5 Things You Need To Know About Biden’s Gun Control Plan

 

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Photo Credit: screenshot from Youtube video

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116 comments

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6:53PM PST on Nov 9, 2013

Thanks for posting this

6:30AM PST on Mar 4, 2013

Awesome.

4:56AM PST on Mar 4, 2013

"I would like to see one of these 'printed firearms actually operate in a modern factory torture test, not just one round, but I would not want to be near it, but rather fire it placed in an explosion resistant isolation chamber"

No kidding!

4:21AM PST on Mar 4, 2013

What can be construed as "Not a weapon?"

4:13AM PST on Mar 4, 2013

While the 3d portion of the transmission is correct, as an experienced gun-smith in past days, I find it difficult to believe that the materials used in 3D modeled buildup could at all be trusted when used at the pressures and temperatures achieved by modern ammunition, let alone such intricate parts as springs, which require very rigid specifications and quality control.

While plastic made Glock a universal household word, now imitated by most of the world's firearms producers today, the plastics in a plastic handgun, for example are quite differ form those being deposited by a 3D printer.

We have also barrels, an exercise all its own in metallurgy. The only other material besides steel in the ammunition firing group to successfully replace it is a ceramic material, which is frightfully expensive, and while super in strength, tends to be brittle.

I would like to see one of these 'printed firearms actually operate in a modern factory torture test, not just one round, but I would not want to be near it, but rather fire it placed in an explosion resistant isolation chamber.

I have no doubt that some day a couple of centuries from now a durable, usable dependable firearm may be printed, but till then I think the trend to that sort of weapon may be “Air Soft” pellet guns and rifles.

1:44AM PST on Mar 4, 2013

No kidding- how can anyone believe this silly post. Just another example of someone wanting SO BADLY to control others & to tear apart our constitution to support their own anarchist ways, that they're willing to lie, distort, & even give up their own rights to do it. There is no way one can simply print up a gun. That's pathetic. I mean, plenty of people make their own guns- this is one of many reasons why banning guns will never work- prisoners make guns from fountain pens (zip guns). Guns are made by men, so therefore, unless all men are executed, then guns will be available. So wich is it? NO society or a society w/guns? And for those wishing no guns for anyone but cops & military, etc- well, why would cops & military NEED guns if citizens didn't have them? Get real. Evil exists, therefore the need for self-defense (guns) exist. And furthermore, guns have many other uses besides killing & even killing in self-defense. Target shooting is fun & helps build confidence, aim, skill, dexterity, sportsmanship, comraderie, etc. It's a fun thing. Guns kill so few people in comparison to the entire population... If you want fewer gun deaths, then find a way to slow down the rate of population growth. Trying (& failing) to get rid of guns is just like trying to kill bears, lions, alligators, wolves, etc, b/c humans have encroached beyond their territory onto that of such wild species. Slow down our rate of growth & expansion & you'll have less co

1:09AM PST on Mar 4, 2013

Whatever.

11:59AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

I'm afraid already of what we have right now: Too many guns!!

9:53AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

Whats Next??? A 3D printable kit of our perfect mate...Perhaps we will be a future generation of Agoraphobics???

7:22PM PST on Mar 2, 2013

We should be afraid - but not of guns- of the destruction of our world.

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