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If You Can't Beat 'em, Take Their 3D Printers

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Wile E. Coyote, meet Road Runner. Notwithstanding the State Department’s tone-deaf attempts to ban them last week, blueprints for the Liberator 3D printable gun have been downloaded more than 100,000 times and have been mirrored on a variety of blogs and sites like the Pirate Bay, the NY Times reported. As planned by Defense Distributed, the anarcho-libertarian outfit behind the Liberator, the cat is well out of the bag.

So what’s next? This story may be a hint of things to come: A California state Senator is musing about the need to start registering 3D printers and the people who have access to them. No legislation has been proposed yet, and the Senator was vague about how registration could even be implemented, but the idea is now well and truly out in the open.

Admittedly, a state-level politician from San Francisco proposing these kinds of measures is a far cry from a national politician mooting the same thoughts. Steve Israel, the New York Congressman who was at the forefront of introducing legislation to try to limit the proliferation of 3D printable gun components earlier this year, said in an interview in January that he has no intention of going after 3D printing hobbyists or of regulating the sales of the printers themselves. But given the panicked atmosphere surrounding gun control and the shock of new technologies like the Liberator, it might not be long before we hear similar noises from Washington, futile as they might be.

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  • Michael J. Lotus

    Guns are very simple technology. Printing a very primitive gun is not hard. Printing clunky plastic guns is not high on the list of intelligent uses for this new technology. A modern automatic pistol is almost indistinguishable from the pistols Browning made a century ago. Plastic guns have been around for a long time. You don’t need a 3D printer to make a plastic gun that won’t set off a metal detector. (When someone prints ammunition that actually works, that will be a little more interesting.)

    So why is this manifest stupidity becoming an issue now?

    My paranoid assessment is that American manufacturers are scared of 3D manufacturing. 3D printing has unlimited possible uses and is headed toward being a world-transforming technology. So some “they” has come up with this nonsense about printing guns to create a pointless public scare, so they can regulate the threat out of existence.

    Any excuse to try to regulate 3D printing out of existence will be seized upon by incumbents. Linking the technology to terrorism is about as good an opening gambit as one could imagine.

    Or maybe it is all happenstance. I hate to be paranoid.

    • qet

      The reason why 3D printers change the game on gunmaking is, in my opinion, that they require the user, or will once the technology has developed further, merely to press a button to receive a gun. Building a gun from pieces of plastic or metal pipe etc. is very easy for some people, but fewer and fewer people have the needed skills, or the desire to acquire them. And even if printing a 3D gun today takes more skill than just pressing Start, the fact is that not long ago the tasks we all perform with ease on computers by pointing and clicking required a fairly sophisticated knowledge of DOS and/or a programming language. I am not at all in favor of government bans & regulation of these devices, but I find unpersuasive people who argue that they do not represent a real turning point. History may prove such people correct, but the risk right now seems quite real.

      • Corlyss Drinkard

        I listened to World from PRI Fri. They interviewed someone about the technology of printing a gun, and asked the guest wasn’t there a real possibility that *horrors* evil arms dealers would produce them in vast quantities to sell to bad people to do bad things (I’m paraphrasing). The guest calmly said, “Well, first of all, this gun cost $8000 to produce. There’s much cheaper options available to arms dealers.” Of course economies of scale will make the 3-D printers cheaper in the long term, but it was delightful to hear PRI being typically naïve.

  • AnnSaltzafrazz

    These people are such idiots. The point isn’t that someone made a gun this way, the point is that the cat is out of the bag; this has and is going to happen; there will be printed guns in the hands of (good guys and) bad guys. You can’t roll back the technology, which certainly isn’t restricted to the US where US laws might prevail. Airport security–which, I assume is the real worry–is going to have to deal with this, NOW. The sooner the better. Stop sticking your heads in the sand and hoping that day will never come, hoping you can turn back the clock. It’s here now. Deal with it.

  • Stacy Garvey

    This is about how disruptive technologies will make it increasingly difficult for governments to control, well, lots of stuff.
    Printing a gun is just an in-your-face demonstration of this.
    The choice for governments will be to either become more controlling or less. My guess is there will be plenty of attempts to control and regulate but they’ll mostly fail. They’ll fail for two reasons: first, because the technology will move faster than their ability to keep up, second because citizens have less tolerance for intrusive government.

  • qet

    If our experience with the relentless government efforts to ban & regulate guns is any guide, futility will have absolutely no effect, will in no way prevent or even slow the attempts. We can expect the full panoply of time-tested government devices to be applied here: bans; licensing requirements; civil liability of 3D printer manufacturers; punitive taxation of 3d printer sales; import/export restrictions; and my personal fave, proudly devised right here in MA by our esteemed attorney general in the case of guns, using consumer safety and consumer deceptive practices laws to effectively outlaw all but a handful of 3D printers. Oh, and the Left (or should I say the Blues? We might as well go full Constantinople here) will also attack on the “futility” front as well, as university “studies” will start to magically appear that “prove” that all of the regulatory efforts are having a statistically significant effect.

    • Corlyss Drinkard

      Did you hear Pelozi’s reaction to the DoJ report I referenced above? She said it was obvious that the reduction in gun crime resulted from the assault weapons ban that expired 10 years ago! They never stop propagandizing.

  • Corlyss Drinkard

    “A California state Senator is musing about the need to start registering 3D printers and the people who have access to them. ”

    My, that takes me back to my early days reading about the early days of the printing press technology. Remember how in England printers had to have a patent from the crown in order to operate?

    To quote one of the founders of the internet, “Information wants to be free.” I trust this boneheaded attempt will meet the same fate as that of Renaissance attempts to control printing. The only thing that surprises about it is that NY wasn’t the first state to try it.

  • Corlyss Drinkard

    “But given the panicked atmosphere surrounding gun control ***”

    Panic is right. I jumped on the DoJ website to dl their candid report confirming that more guns equal less crime before the Obamabots can “Benghazi-ize” the report, making it say the exact opposite of the report findings. Here’s a link to it for the interested:

  • FactsNotFallacies

    You all know you can print a 3D-printer with a 3d printer right?
    And that all the components are perfectly legal and inconspicous things?

  • JT

    It’s amazing how the world is changing. When I read about these 3D printers, it has me thinking that one could be useful with out hobby auto shop that my father has. Dad has a bunch of old cars that he enjoys tinkering with. Often times, in the past, hunting down plastic parts can be overly difficult to do. The parts are old, out of stock, often with few demands. With the ability to down load these parts now, printing them out at the shop would be a wonderful tool for my father I’m guessing.

    I’d have to imagine other shops and businesses in auto and out of will think the same.

    When I first read here on the sight of the idea of a plastic gun being printed out I thought no gun enthusiast will want that. I doubt a person with criminal intent would be hunkering for a plastic gun with few shot capabilities, likely poor aiming abilities too. But the ability is now there. As mentioned, the cat is out of the bag. It would be easy to make.

    Along similar lines, I remember seeing on TV not long ago of a shop machinist that on the side made gun parts. He down loaded instructions on how to make the guns from the internet, I believe, and with that was able to use his fabricating machinery to make the parts. It was up to the buyer to assemble the pieces together. I’m not all that familiar with machining equipment, but from the car items I’ve seen made in shops, I’d have to guess manufacturing other items, such as weapons, would not be a big leap for many of these guys. I’d guess the cat has been out of the bag for awhile.

  • Lowell Savage

    The way I’d do it would be to “print” wax parts and then cast metal. Still not quite “point and click” but much more sturdy materials in the finished part.

    As for the “high-tech” aspect of guns, just understand that there are at least 30 companies from whom you can purchase a variation on “Model 1911” pistol–less technology than a Ford Model T. Also, there are at least 50 companies from whom you can purchase a variation on the “AR15” rifle–’57 Chevy technology.

    The real game-changer, in my opinion, wasn’t the Liberator pistol (named after the WWII pistol of the same name), it was the AR15 rifle receiver. That’s the one part you have to either make yourself or buy through a gun dealer under current law. But do a Google search on “make AR15 lower receiver” and see what you get. Then go to “” and browse. Of course, nearly everything is out of stock right now.

  • anil kumar
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