For better or worse, 3D-printing of firearms is coming. Whether or not the public is sufficiently educated to cope with the technology’s advent, it is here and it will change things. And the technology is a good thing. Its ubiquity will present the public with many opportunities and challenges, not the least of which is the threat of untraceable, easily-produced firearms.
This past week, the first firearm made fully from 3D-printed materials successfully fired a .380 round without visibly damaging the weapon. Forbes reported the story. Ushering in a new age of security woes, the non-profit Defense Distributed has opened a Pandora’s box. But is it good or bad?
The CAD file for the gun is available here and the gun is almost certainly already being produced. Take a second to consider that this gun was in development last week and as of this morning it is being distributed online.
And that’s the future for you; the power and scale of the internet allowing anyone with an $8,000 3D printer to become a gun manufacturer, even potentially a distributer. Concerns have been expressed by many about the ability of those that should not have access to weapons (i.e. convicted felons, terrorists, etc.) gaining access and calls from officials to ban the production of these firearms have started. But no serious action has been made to ensure public safety; Congress relegated the device to the realm of science fiction and wrote it off.
Right now, the same principles that dictate the ability to make an action figure govern the ability to produce this weapon. Until now, the increased pressure that forces the projectile through the gun’s barrel prevented enthusiasts from being able to produce the weapon using only the printer, the barrel had to be metal. Now the gun exists and the design is being distributed as easily and as quickly as a pirated movie.
So where does that leave the public and what action will Congress take to ensure public safety? Unfortunately, Congress’ backward mentality to technology and inability to respond swiftly to new concerns has prevented the body from taking any substantial action on the issue and they have no plans to do so in the near future. So, for or better or worse, 3D printing of guns is here.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.