The editors of ILS think this blog entry on 3D printed guns is worthy of a response to the author, Chris Fox, Associate Editor of PD&D. The following is reprinted with permission from the Product Design and Development magazine web site on Jan. 23, 2013.
by Chris Fox, Associate Editor, PD&D
The question of gun control has long been a hotly debated issue. In the light of recent shootings, discussion of tighter control on firearms has escalated. All of the hot-button issues that coincide with guns and the second amendment have multiplied and created a partisan stoppage of dialogue about the issue. With all the buzz words and political rhetoric flying around, a new loophole has emerged. Even with a caricatured and ever-growing outspoken community, those who are 3D printing guns have been slipping under the collective radar.
The first attempts at printing firearms have shown only minor success, but the organization, Defense Distributed, has taken it upon themselves to do more than just attempt 3D printing guns. They are finding any and all firearms laws that they can circumvent by utilizing 3D printing. For instance, high-capacity magazines are illegal to sell under a proposed law (ie. magazines holding 30, 50, 100 rounds, or more), but Defense Distributed and an associated project, WikiWeapons, have already printed a magazine and distributed the CAD files online.
All safety concerns over using a firearm with a plastic component aside, this is a very gray area in the engineering industry. With many designs being developed on open-source platforms, 3D printers becoming increasingly popular, and file sharing (both illegal and legitimate) running rampant, where does a 3D printed firearm (or design of such) fall?
My concern isn’t gun control. In fact, I agree with some of the rhetoric that the NRA and its constituency uses. No amount of ‘gun control’ will ever stop a true psycho or criminal from committing a crime. If they really want to act violently, it will happen, whether or not guns are controlled. (Ready? Here comes the libertarian twist) I also feel that anybody should be allowed to own any sort of weapon they choose, so long as they can prove that they are properly trained to use it and said weapon is registered. In the same breath, I think that we should be allowed to own tanks, fighter jets, and bombs, but again, the training and registry must coincide with said weapon. The idea is that, in order to possess a weapon, whether it’s a tank or an assault rifle, you have to know the ins and outs and the repercussions. Due to the difficulty and general obnoxiousness of obtaining said verification and permit, the field of owners would likely be small and filled with those who are both well trained and educated about their dangerous toys.
The issue with a freely available design for a firearm is that it is available to anybody, without any registration obligations. Those obligations, that would surely lead to subtly engrained ethics, are lost when a gun (or a larger magazine) is a click away.
As a proponent of free speech, I think that these guys should be allowed to distribute their weapon and accessory designs online, but I find myself at a crossroads. And, I am unusually without an opinionated answer.
Gun control does little to stop psychopaths, but at the same time, making guns easily and readily available without any sense of authority is somewhat nerve-racking.
In a perfect world, anybody could own a gun because nobody would ever think of using it violently. Yet, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need guns to defend ourselves from attackers. There really is no easy answer. But, rest assured, that no matter what law is passed or filibustered, there will be somebody trying to circumvent the law – regardless of their intent.
What are your thoughts on WikiWeapons, open source weapon design, and 3D printed guns?