If it’s plastic and deadly it may soon be illegal

AR-15 lower 3d printed

Reinforced AR-15 Lower Receiver (see it fired)

If you’re into 3D printing and/or guns, you’re probably familiar with Cody Wilson’s Defense Distributed, the aptly named Wiki Weapon Project organized to explore, create, and freely distribute information regarding the 3D printing of firearms. First Wilson’s Indiegogo account was closed for “violating” the terms of service, so funding was then raised privately, then Stratasys canceled their lease of a uPrint SE because he, according to Statasys Legal Counsel, “made it clear that you do not have a federal firearms manufacturers license. It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes.” Most recently the bottom receiver for an AR-15 was tested, with some success. You can guess where this is headed: legislation.

The New York Democratic Representative Steve Israel has called to renew the ban of plastic firearms. His website says, “Right now, plastic guns are illegal under the Undetectable Firearms Act, but this law is set to expire next year.” Though there’s not yet been a gun printed — only parts — apparently banning them before they exist is the responsible thing to do. Let’s be clear here: building your own firearms for your own use is not illegal; building them for sale without a license is. Defense Distributed has no plans to sell their research or what they make. The ban on plastic firearms is related to the rational thought that plastic guns can’t be detected by metal detectors. The rational thinking ends however at the quiet assumption that gun-related violence occurs beyond metal detectors. If you watch any news at all you ought to notice that most shootings occur in places where it’s easy to take a gun. At this point it isn’t metal detectors that keep guns out of airports and courtrooms; it’s mostly personnel. Someone brazen enough to try slipping a plastic gun through a metal detector must do so with full knowledge that he/she may randomly be frisked and that the detector may actually be a full-body x-ray scanner which could easily see plastic.

With Representative Israel’s opinion comes no method of enforcement, or exactly what would be enforced. When something is being banned, clarity is of utmost importance. Is it whole plastic firearms? What’s a firearm? Must fire be involved or simply a projectile? Does the projectile’s velocity factor in? Is a pocketsize crossbow a firearm? If safety is the true issue then the ban would have to be very broad, but as that breadth increases, our freedoms seem to decrease. If the goal is to make printing anything that could kill illegal, well there won’t be much left.

I’ve covered before the possibility that 3D print manufacturers may feel the same pressure that 2D printer companies did to make their printers impart hidden watermarks on every print, and how a similar technology could physically limit what your 3D printer would print. If the media drums up too much a negative portrayal of 3D printing as it relates to crime, our politicians may feel inclined to push unnecessary regulation on the 3D giants. I’m not against regulating firearms, but bans can make things worse too by forcing underground markets to develop, and I see this recent call to renew the ban as being more an unintentional threat to the innovation of 3D printing by preemptively banning currently unclear and not-present dangers. Should our legislators be aware of the situation and actively discussing it? Certainly. But banning something in the future seems a tad hasty.

Source: DailyCaller

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  • EldRitch

    What do you think – will they make printing knives illegal too?

    Idiots!

    • http://www.3dprinter.net mark

      Politicians are capable of all sorts of idiocy.

  • Pete

    Because banning violence isn’t enough. Calling someone a politician may be the biggest insult in your verbal arsenal.

  • Confused

    Can you print plastic ammo?

  • More confused

    Plastic bolt and barrel?

  • Pete

    Accurate barrels will be the most difficult thing to produce.

  • William McReynolds

    Barrels are still steel, and easily detectable by conventional metal detectors, so that idea is silly. It was silly back in the 80s when Glocks were first introduced, and it is just as silly today.

    Can plastic ammunition be printed? My guess would be that cartidge cases for revolvers could be, thogh they would be inferior to conventional brass ammunition. Bullets need to be reasonably dense for good performance, so plastic bullets aren’t a good idea. Bullets can be made by casting with centuries old technology, however.

    Powder and primers are not going to be printed, IMO.

  • Josh

    There’s no plastic that can hold up to the pressures that a cartrige priduces when fired, that is why barrels can lony be made out of steel, bullets can be made out of polymers but they are very inefficient and don’t have the weight or velocity to seriously injure someone much less kill them unless you fire 2 inches from their head, it’d pretty much be like trying to build a car engine out of plastics, it would all melt or explode, politiians don’t know what they’re talking about, if they did they wouldn’t be politians

  • jim dorey

    when i was a kid i got a pellet gun, didn’t need any background checks or anything… of primary importance seemed to be muzzle velocity, anything under 700fps was considered non-firearm… which i spose would mean, even if it didn’t use powder you’d need a firearms license, dunno, hadn’t looked that up.