Print and Fire: 3D printing of weapons

The process of 3D printing is allowing users to print working guns. A gun in every home — what sort of world would that be?

By Caitlin McKay, staff writer


Photography by: Seana Stevenson

Last year, an American man made waves with a gun partially made from his 3D printer and by doing so, he uncovered a new realm of possibilities: it might not be long before guns are can be produced in private homes. What of regulation then?

Currently, plastic guns in the United States are illegal under the Undetectable Firearms Act because metal detectors are unable to recognize plastic. However, that amendment to the Act is set to expire in 2013. Congressman Steve Israel says he wants to introduce legislation that would ban plastic guns such as those made from a printer.

But as reported by Forbes Magazine, Israel’s ban isn’t clear: Plastic and polymer high capacity magazines are already common, and aren’t currently covered by the current Undetectable Firearms law.

“So it would seem Israel would need to distinguish between those plastic magazines and 3D printable ones, or ban possession of all non-metal high-capacity magazines outright.”

The congressman says he is not trying to regulate Internet or 3D printing use — merely the mass manufacture of plastic guns. He says he is concerned that gun enthusiasts could print a lower receiver for their weapon. The lower receiver holds the mechanical parts of the gun, which include the trigger holding and bolt carrier.  That part has the gun’s serial number, which is the more federally regulated aspect of the device. So a gun could be created without the government’s knowledge or ability to police the weapon.

In an interview with Forbes, Israel explains his legislation: “No one’s trying to interfere with people’s access to the Internet. We’re just trying to make it more difficult for an individual to make a homemade gun in his or her basement…you want to download the blueprint, we’re not going near that.

“You want to buy a 3D printer and make something, buy a 3D printer and make something. But if you’re going to download a blueprint for a plastic weapon that can be brought onto an airplane, there’s a penalty to be paid.”

Israel says he plans to specifically include 3D printed gun components as part of the Undetectable Firearms Act, a law that bans the possession of any weapon can pass through a metal detector.

But Defense Distributed disagrees. This pro-gun organization believes that it is an American right to own, operate and now build a firearm. And they’ve done so. Cody Wilson, leader of Defense Distributed and a law student at Texas University, says that the group’s goal is to oust gun regulations in America and the world.

[pullquote]“People say you’re going to allow people to hurt people, well, that’s one of the sad realities of liberty. People abuse freedom.”[/pullquote]


Wilson and his comrades posted a YouTube video of themselves shooting a Colt M-16 firearm, which they claim was made mostly from a 3D printer. The video has been viewed more than 240,000 times. Defense Distributed has also organized the Wiki Weapon Project, which aims to distribute downloadable blueprints for homemade guns. Posted onto their website and speaking to the Huffington Post, The Wiki Weapon Project purports to challenge the United States Government and its gun laws. They posted their opposition to government regulation on their website.

“How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the Internet?

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