The Printable Gun: The Times Is Freaking Out About a Still-Nonexistent Invention

Categories: Media, Technology

Last week, we told you about Cody Wilson and his group Defense Distributed, which would very much like to create a printable gun using a 3D printer. Not so much because Wilson plans on stockpiling weapons in his dorm room, but because, as he told us, he's trying to make a point about civil liberties.

"Printable guns aren't my interest," he said. "I like the philosophical components, the democratization of manufacturing itself ... Basically it's disruptive technology. I like that. And I went a step further with it. It comes from a political perspective."

Wilson called a printable gun "not an obviously great thing," but said he'd still like to have the freedom to try to experiment with the technology. He also acknowledged that the 3D printing is still fairly primitive. At this point, a printable gun would probably have some unwelcome side effects for the would-be shooter. Like firing the thing once and then having it explode, possibly taking your hand along with it.

Somebody might want to explain all that to Nick Bilton at the New York Times' Bits blog, because he sounds like he might be hyperventilating.

As Bilton wrote in a blog post over the weekend:

It won't be long before a felon, unable to buy a gun legally, can print one at home. Teenagers could make them in their bedroom while their parents think they are 'playing on their computer.' I'm talking about a fully functional gun, where the schematic is downloaded free from the Internet and built on a 3-D printer, all with the click of a button.

Hit print, walk away, and a few hours later, you have a firearm. There are no background checks. No age limits. No serial numbers etched on the barrel or sales receipts to track the gun.

"Won't be long" is rather questionable phrasing, given that this technology is still in its infancy. The Times illustrated the article with a photo of a semi-automatic, which was only partially manufactured with a 3D printer. Although some of the issues Bilton raises are worth thinking about, we're hardly at the stage where every felon has a 3D printer set up in the basement.

Bilton does briefly mention that at the moment there is a "lack of plastics strong enough for a real gun." And he does mention that there are an awful lot of non-printed guns out there already, some of them even purchasable on the Internet or obtainable in other, not-quite-legit ways.

But why let that get in the way of some fun hysterical speculation? "After committing a crime with a printed weapon, a person could simply melt down the plastic and reprint it as something as mundane as a statue of Buddha," Bilton writes. "And guns made of plastic might not be spotted by metal detectors in airports, courthouses or other government facilities."

Or someone could use a 3D printer to make a very, very heavy Buddha statute and just use that to bludgeon someone to death. The possibilities are endless.

Defense Distributed responded to the Times succinctly earlier today, posting the video below to their blog.

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22 comments
les.moor
les.moor

Finally, an easy to obtain/make handgun, because it has been SOOOOO difficult for criminals to get their hands on guns up to this point.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

of course one could fashion a gun from wood, bamboo or other readily available materials.  You'd certainly be limited in the number of rounds you could fire, but this technology doesn't really change much.  Essentially the tools to fashion a gun predate gun-powder by centuries.  But, sadly, much of that wisdom is lost.  A laminated gun will never be comparable to a forged barrel, which isn't fabricated, but made from molten metal.  Even drilling out a barrel is far inferior to forging.  A laminated gun and one made of bamboo may have similar life spans.  I wish people understood forging that write about these issues. 

MissMacy
MissMacy

I don't get it. If it's possible to print a gun that actually fires, can I print food that's actually edible?

roo_ster
roo_ster

What the phelps fellow wrote. 

 

Job-shop manufacturing for the masses with CAD/CAM CNC and 3D printing is on the horizon.  Just like personal computers evolved from technical hobbyist basements to crawl into almost everyone's home & business by 1990, this sort of personal fabrication will spread.  Designs will be available for download.  The user needs less & less skill as the software gets smarter.

 

All this is a good thing.  The luddites and statists will mewl in horror, of course.  That is good, too.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

He's absolutely wrong about pretty much everything.  This part in particular:

 

" I'm talking about a fully functional gun, "

 

No, you're not.  You're talking about the lower receiver, which is LEGALLY the gun.  It's the part that gets the serial number, and the part that the ATF regulates as a gun.  The rest of it is parts.  The deal is, you buy all the other parts of the gun (which are essentially unrestricted) and then print the ONE part that the ATF tracks.  It's not even that huge a development -- anyone that already had a CNC machine (and there are millions in the country) could already mill a much better one from a piece of stock.

 

"And guns made of plastic might not be spotted by metal detectors in airports, courthouses or other government facilities."

 

More of what we pro-civil rights for arms people call "Pants shitting hysteria" or PSH.  The gun isn't made of plastic.  The lower receiver is made of plastic.  (Just like on a Glock.)  The rest of the gun is made of steel and aluminum.  Some parts have to be steel, like the barrel.  The ammunition has to be metalic (hence the term metalic cartridges.)  You need metal springs to make it work, a metal bolt and metal firing pin.

 

In addition, while printing your own gun probably isn't illegal (unless it is already illegal for you to own guns) making a gun that isn't detected by metal detectors is very much already illegal.  It was banned by the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, or what I call the "oh shit we better ban things that don't and in fact can't exist" act.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Can I use a printable gun to shoot the killer bees high on cheese heroin carrying SARS and swine flu that arise in mass at the end of the world in December due to the Mayan calendar?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

 @everlastingphelps This thing is the fiercely "pro-life" kook that equates birth control to genocide.  Typical that he loves to see people die by the gun.  These people are pro-life only when it's convenient.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @everlastingphelps Again, Myrna dehumanizes anyone she disagrees with ("this thing"). And to the point, guns save more lives than they take. Guns aren't about killing people, they are about letting people like women and the elderly stand on even ground with large men who could physically overpower them (like me). If I was operating from a predatory violent self interest, I would be much better off in a world of clubs and blades than guns, since I would be much stronger than at least half of the population, and likely much more.

CraigT42
CraigT42

hee hee

troll fight

I am giving points to phleps so far.  he has made factual agruments and supported his side, all fat cat does is name call, and she isn't even good at that.

 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @scottindallas Guns are used in self-defense over 700K times a year in America.

 

http://www.pulpless.com/gunclock/kleck1.html

 

As far as govt/private, that's the problem.  In a world with ANY guns, the criminals have guns.  Name any "gun free zone" on the planet, and criminals have plenty of guns.  All gun bans do is disarm the law abiding.  The law abiding already don't murder.

 

In addition, in any state that has committed a genocide, the first step is to ban the private ownership of arms.  Nazi Germany, Red China, Soviet Russia, Cambodia, various African states, Serbia, etc etc.  It all starts with banning arms, and then ends with mass graves.   Even if the current banners don't have the "Them" picked out (and Myrna, for example, talks like she does) that doesn't mean a Them won't be conjured up 20 years from now.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  @scottindallas Actually, Myrna, I reserve that for you and Paul Krugman.  Jim, Scott, etc are often right, or simply making a different judgment call than I am.  You don't even have a stable set of facts.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

 @scottindallas Notice how many time the phelps booger says that everyone else is always wrong.  That's, at the least, a display of ignorance and intolerance, and, more likely, a manisfestation of narcissism.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @everlastingphelps saying "guns save more lives than they take," is an unprovable claim.  

 

In your "self interest" argument, you undermine your argument.  As, in that "world" the gov't still has guns and you have less.   There is truth in what you're getting at, though I don't think simple dichotomies get us there.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz If by pro-life she means that I want to ban abortion, she's absolutely wrong, and people who have been paying attention know that.  You don't solve that problem by throwing pregnant women and doctors in jail.

 

Of course, she's always wrong, so people who are paying attention probably already figured that out.

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