Gun control and gun rights are continuing to remain in the national spotlight. As a liberty-loving American I am strictly opposed to gun control. But even more I am opposed to background checks and getting government permission for exercising rights protected by the constitution. There is no logical reason to restrict law-abiding citizens to rules criminals will simply ignore. Fortunately there is one thing the anti-liberty movement is having a hard time fighting: progress.
The progress I speak of is technology. Technology is making many of the steps taken by the anti-gun movement irrelevant. Specifically 3D printers will allow consumers to manufacture parts for their own goods; this includes gun parts! Anyone owning a 3D printer can create plastic parts from a CAD drawing. The ability to create these parts changes the whole gun control debate.
First lets look at “assault weapons”. Anti-gun movements have been trying to get assault-style weapons banned for a long time. The problem with these assault weapon bans is the lack of functional difference between an “assault rifle” and a hunting rifle. Cosmetic additions to a rifle such as a pistol grip, a bayonet lug, or a folding stock are what give the classification of ‘assault’. Each of these parts can now be made by anyone with a 3D printer. Any attempt to ban the sale of these items becomes irrelevant when consumers can print out their favorite gun cosmetic feature.
High capacity magazines are also a common target of the gun control advocates. However there are already plans available for 3D printers that allow consumers to make their own high-capacity magazines. DEFCAD has plans on their website available for a 30-round magazine to be used with an AR-15. As time goes on I expects there will be magazines and clips available for a larger selection of weapons.
Finally there are projects out there to create whole weapons from plastic using a 3D printer. Defense Distributed has a project called ‘wiki weapon’ to create a firearm made completely out of plastic. Due to limitations with current plastic 3D printers this may not be entirely possible; however the project should be able to get close enough that only a couple small pieces will need to be purchased separately. Since these new weapons are plastic they are generally going to be single use items. However the ability to create these weapons cheaply using a 3D printer makes them perfect self-defense items. If one is used in the act of self-defense, the parts for a new one can easily be printed out. I would also expect cheaper 3D printers that can handle metal to hit the market within a couple of year as well. That will then allow weapons to be created that will last longer than a single use.
There is one hurdle that must be overcome this year in the battle of using 3D printers to create weapons: The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988. This law passed again in December of 2003 and will sunset December of this year. This law does the following:
(Senate agreed to House amendment with an amendment) Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 – Amends the Federal criminal code to make it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm:
(1) which is not as detectable as the Security Exemplar (after the removal of grips, stocks, and magazines) by walk-through metal detectors calibrated and operated to detect the Exemplar; or
(2) of which any major component, when subjected to inspection by x-ray machines commonly used at airports, does not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component.
Defines the term “Security Exemplar” to mean an object that is suitable for testing and calibrating metal detectors and is, during the 12-month period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, constructed of 3.7 ounces of stainless steel in a shape resembling a handgun.
Directs the Secretary of the Treasury, at the close of such 12-month period and at appropriate times thereafter, to promulgate regulations to permit the manufacture, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, transfer, or receipt of firearms that are as detectable as a security exemplar which contains 3.7 ounces of stainless steel or such lesser amount as is detectable in view of advances in state-of-the-art developments in weapons detection technology.
This law does come directly at odds with the current trend in 3D printing. 3D guns will most likely be undetectable by metal detectors and likely hard to spot with x-ray technologies. The Undetectable Firearms Act must be allowed to expire this year so lawful citizens can engage in their constitutionally protected rights to bear arms and privacy. Otherwise this law will be used as another way for the government to harass otherwise lawful citizens over a victim-less crime.