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Print and Fire: Guns Being Made At Home


The process of 3D printing is allowing users to print working guns.

By Caitlin McKay, staff writer

Image Courtesy of Salon.com

Image Courtesy of Salon.com

Last year, an American man made created 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 about regulation then?

Currently, plastic guns in the United States are illegal under the Undetectable Firearms Act as the metal detectors are unable to recognize plastic. The amendment to this Act was renewed in 2013. However, this renewal did not cover the availability of 3D printing technology.

Congressman Steve Israel says he wants to introduce legislation that would ban plastic guns such as those made from a printer.

Conversely as reported by Forbes Magazine, Israel’s ban is not 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 federally regulated aspect of the device. So a gun could realistically 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.

However the 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.

A CHALLENGE TO GUN LAWS

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? Let’s find out.”

Defense Distributed emphasizes that if people want to shoot guns, they will shoot guns, and that it is their right to do so. For the people that get hurt along the way, they are sorry.

“There’s nothing that you can say to a grieving parent, but that’s still no reason to be quiet. I don’t lose my rights because someone is a criminal,” Wilson told Digitaltrends.com.

“People say you’re going to allow people to hurt people, well, that’s one of the sad realities of liberty. People abuse freedom,” the Texas University law student told digitaltrends.com in another interview. “But that’s no excuse not to have these rights or to feel good about someone taking them away from you.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Israel was quoted calling Wilson’s project “fundamentally irresponsible.” Even so, manufacturing a gun out of one’s home is not a new idea. In fact, gun lovers have been making their own guns for years and it has not been deemed illegal. Ginger Colburn, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms told The Economist that “pens, books, belts, clubs — you name it — people have turned it into a firearm.”

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