Ignorant Hysteria Over 3D Printed Guns Leads To Courts Ignoring The First Amendment

from the can-we-somehow-add-in-a-3rd-amendment-issue-here dept

A year and a half ago, we wrote about a troubling ruling by the 5th Circuit siding with the US State Department waving a magic “national security” wand to ignore the First Amendment implications of banning the internet distribution of the CAD files for 3D printing components for guns. As we pointed out over five years ago, the hysteria over these 3D printed gun plans was silly. Attempts to ban them from the internet wouldn’t just fail, but would actually draw much more attention to them.

However, in the last few days the hysteria has returned… and much of it is misleading and wrong, and while most people probably want to talk about the 2nd Amendment implications of all of this, it’s the 1st Amendment implications that are a bigger deal. First off, most of what you’ve probably heard about the case is either wrong or misleading. David French has a pretty good post separating fact from fiction. This is not (as some claimed) the Trump administration “legalizing” 3D printed guns. It is already legal to make guns yourself, so long as they are not undetectable. Undetectable guns are already illegal under the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 and nothing has changed or is changing on that front.

The issue, again, is whether or not Cody Wilson’s Defense Distributed can post the files to the internet specifically because the State Department claims that this would represent an illegal export of a weapon, violating ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulation. Let’s be clear about this: throughout all of this no one (not even the US government under Obama) argued that detectable 3D printed firearms are illegal in the US. That’s because they’re legal. They have been before this and they still are. The specific issue was that the State Department sought to block the files put up by Wilson/Defense Distributed because of export restrictions outside of the US. This is silly for a variety of reasons, as already stated, because the files are already widely available all over the place, and that’s not going to change.

The 5th Circuit ruling in early 2017 was problematic, because it effectively pushed aside the prior restraint/First Amendment concerns by just saying “well, national security trumps that issue.” But, that’s not how the First Amendment works. There is no “balancing test” for the First Amendment. There is a very small and very limited set of exceptions to the First Amendment, as set forth by the Supreme Court. They do not conduct a balancing test. Indeed, in United States v. Stevens, the court explicitly rejected the idea of a balancing test.

The Government’s proposed test would broadly balance the value of the speech against its societal costs to determine whether the First Amendment even applies. But the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs.

So that ruling was already problematic for the 1st Amendment.

What happened here, was that the federal government settled its case with Wilson and Defense Distributed, which would have allowed him to put the files back up on the internet. Once again, to be clear, this did not “legalize” 3D printed guns. 3D printed guns are already legal, so long as they are detectable. If they are undetectable, they’ve been illegal since the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988.

The only issues here were whether or not a court could prevent putting files (speech) onto the internet out of a fear that those files might be “exported” and turned into a weapon… and whether or not that would violate regulations against weapons trafficking.

But, never underestimate the amount of hysteria that can come from questions around both the 1st Amendment and the 2nd Amendment — and when combined things go into overdrive.

So a bunch of states sued to somehow try to stop this whole thing from going forward — though it’s unclear what there is to actually stop. Can states stop the US government from settling a lawsuit? That seems odd. Either way, at least three courts rushed forward to issue injunctions against posting the files, including Washington State, where the judge didn’t even seem to consider the First Amendment issues at hand, and issued a ruling that seems to be a classic case of prior restraint. I mean, the ruling literally doesn’t even discuss the First Amendment concerns. Instead, it argues that there’s a likelihood of success under the Administrative Procedures Act, effectively arguing that because the government is modifying the munitions list, it needs to go through a more thorough administrative process. That… seems weak, especially given the First Amendment issues at play.

Again, no matter how you feel about the 2nd Amendment, guns or gun control… that’s not really the issue here, even if it’s clouding much of the reporting on it. Nothing in this case is about legalizing 3D printed guns. It is entirely about exporting computer files that might be used by people outside of the US to make guns, but which are already widely available in many places on the internet and aren’t going to go away (note that this case only applies specifically to Cody Wilson and his organization, and doesn’t directly impact third parties who are already distributing the files elsewhere).

The real concern here should be about the First Amendment. As we mentioned earlier, in suggesting that there’s some sort of “balancing test” between national security and free speech — and that prior restraint is acceptable when balanced against national security — the courts have opened up a huge Pandora’s box of trouble. Even if you hate guns and think the 2nd Amendment should go away, please think carefully about what the world looks like when the government is allowed to censor speech that it claims is a risk to national security.

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Comments on “Ignorant Hysteria Over 3D Printed Guns Leads To Courts Ignoring The First Amendment”

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ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: Pentagon Papers

Far from it. The Pentagon Papers was about a history; things already published, even though privately done. This is about the promotion of an illegal weapon.

Criminal activity is included as an exception to the First Amendment. Would it make your fee fees better if you knew you may not post the plans for the Ford Class Aircraft Carrier engines either.

BTW, Ellsberg was charged with theft of the report. The case was dismissed by the court because the government had repeatedly violated his rights, including tapping his phone, breaking into his home and doctor’s office without warrants, etc. The case that set the standard was the New York Times’ First Amendment “Freedom of the Press” ability to publish news worthy articles.

Mike says:

Re: Re: Pentagon Papers

It’s not an illegal weapon, though. It’s legal to manufacture your own guns for personal lawful uses but you’re not allowed to sell them without going through the stringent process of becoming a Federal Firearms License holder.

You should actually read the article and do a bit of research.

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Pentagon Papers

Sure thing dude. There is no inherent right to build your own weapon. If there was, you could produce some citation.

A State may still prohibit any weapon that is deemed to be dangerous. That includes nuclear weapons, silencers, full auto firearms, spring assisted knives, and practically any explosive device. Publishing of plans on making these items may result in prosecution.

Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Pentagon Papers

There is no inherent right to build your own weapon.

Anyone who respects the Second Amendment would disagree with you. But regardless of whether there’s an "inherent right" to, there’s no prohibition against it either. It’s perfectly legal for anyone who isn’t prohibited by law from possessing a firearm, to make one themselves, without any licensing or (in most states) registration.

Publishing of plans on making these items may result in prosecution.

Only if the prosecutor is a clueless imbecile. You know that there are lots of books in print on exactly these subjects, right? There are lots of books in print on subjects that are explicitly and universally criminal. And I’m sure you’ve heard of the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

Describing how to do something that’s illegal, is still protected by the First Amendment.

Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Pentagon Papers

…well, that’s what I get for relying on my memory. Though I don’t doubt there are still books in print, Paladin Press (the publisher I was most familiar with) closed up earlier this year after 47 years in operation.

So I’ll amend my statement to “there were books in print on these subjects for many years, and probably still are, though I don’t know who’s publishing them currently.”

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Pentagon Papers

“Like you run down to the library and pour over texts before making comments”

I can’t vouch for him, but I personally don’t pour anything over texts in the library, that would be vandalism. I might pore over them, but that’s different.

But, I do sometimes open another tab and check my facts before posting a response or claim. You know, since you’re on the internet and the evidence to prove your claim right or wrong is generally as easy to get to as the box you’re typing into. You don’t even have to stand up out of your chair!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Pentagon Papers

Any time someone tells me to Google it I arrive at an entirely different conclusion to theirs. It’s not confined to any particular persuasion, either. Last night’s example came courtesy of an tech-illiterate Boomer bashing the women complaining against Al Franken. She’d cooked up her conspiracy theory, added just the right amount of snark, and when I asked her for evidence she told me to Google it. I did, and came up with a news report with legal documents embedded. Game over.

Icing on the PWNage cake: I had to explain how to copy a URL from the address bar and paste it into a tweet. Which I did with patient aplomb. But still… LOL!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Pentagon Papers

Well, to non-gun nuts, the idea of needing to own such a weapon in the first place is extremely weird anyway. Not all of them are anti-gun or trying to take your toys away necessarily, they just don’t like having innocent people die on a regular basis as the price of letting you keep them unembumbered.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Pentagon Papers

I don’t trip any hysteria, I just happen to have spent most of my life in countries where guns aren’t anywhere near as commonplace and nobody seems to fetishise them. Where they are it tends to be for sensible reasons, not because someone decided to stockpile more guns than their local police force has (and maybe surrounding counties as well) for “hunting”. I just find that sort of thing fascinating when I visit the US, since some people seem to think you have to be armed and ready to kill at a moment’s notice to feel safe.

“Non-gun nut owners are just as irritated by the hysteria of gun owners!”

If you mean that sensible, law abiding, careful gun owners are irritated by those who misuse them, I’d imagine that to be true. But, the answer to that is never going to be “don’t take my guns!” every time someone suggests a restriction following the latest mass shooting by a formerly “law abiding gun owner”. There will be extreme reactions on both sides whenever that happens, but it’s usually not the majority.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Pentagon Papers

As I noted elsewhere, there’s something of a big difference between this kind of thing and traditional specs/blueprints/whatever, The new problem is the lack of any skill or real work to get the end product.

To use your meth example, I’m sure you can put a chemical formula online no problem. Actual step by step instruction, I’m not sure, I’d guess someone would be investigating you even if the recipe itself is fine to put up. But, even with a “idiot’s guide”, you do have to have someone with a high level of interest and motivation to even try to follow the instructions.

But, a 3D printed version where you essentially click a button and a few minutes later meth comes out? That’s an entirely different thing, and any idiot could (and would) give it a try even if they had no real interest in the end product. All of a sudden, meth is in the hands of a lot of people who would never otherwise have even considered manufacturing it.

Same here, instructions for how to make a gun yourself is one thing, “click here, gun comes out” is something entirely different. The tech might not exactly be that just yet, but the questions are worth asking.

amoshias (profile) says:

Bad cases make bad laws...

And in this case, Cody Wilson is his mission’s own worst enemy. He comes across as a completely juvenile bomb-thrower whose goal is to explicitly cause all the problems people are considering when they hear the phrase “3-d printed guns.”

And by the way, if you hear that phrase and DON’T think “Well, that seems really problematic” you need to think again, harder, and more seriously. 3d printed guns are a legitimately frightening idea. Are they as frightening as a world in which the 1st amendment can be abrogated because of a scary idea? No. It’s not difficult to figure which way this case should come out. It’s dealing with the predictable consequences of that outcome which is the issue.

Dwight Brown (profile) says:

Re: Re: Bad cases make bad laws...

“It is also illegal in most States to publish plans for building a silencer or converting a semi auto rifle to full auto.”

No, it isn’t. I regularly see publications on both of these subjects at the gun shows I attend. You could also mail order a wide variety of books covering both subjects from Paladin Press, back when they were still in business.

Any such law would be deemed unconstitutional immediately, just like the current injunctions will be on review.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Converting semi-auto to full-auto

Involves replacing a firing pin with a shorter one (or in a pinch, filing it down). It’s not too terrific an idea generally since most firearms lose a considerable amount of accuracy that way.

Machine guns — the big emplacement things — are designed to retain accuracy while on full auto since they’re used to suppress, that is, keep heads down while another unit flanks. But even they get hot quickly, which is why it’s handy to have someone on your fire team with replacement barrels.

Still, it would be difficult to find a gun enthusiast, someone who knows, understands, and breaks-down and cleans their weapons, who didn’t know how to make such a conversion.

As to ahem silencers, perhaps you’ve watched one too many spy movies. Suppressors (aka silencers) reduce the report of a firearm from ringing-in-your-ears-for-the-day to damn-that’s-loud

Now there are some weapons that are quiet enough to use for murder, such as a silenced sniper rifle with an effective range just out of earshot (it uses 0.45 cal pistol rounds), but they’re incredibly rare and regarded essentially as spycraft. If you get one, it’s a priceless museum piece.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Converting semi-auto to full-auto

Actually, its not the firing pin that controls fire, it is the sear pin. That can be filed down, but would cause the gun to run away, which means it won’t stop shooting until it jams or runs out of bullets. No one would want to be around that.

The Machine Guns, retain accuracy because they are either mounted or are on a bi or tri pod. Not all automatic weapons are machine guns, as they have designed for a longer sustained fire. You are spot on in them getting hot. Machine guns are usually crew served with one person responsible for replacing the barrel when it gets too hot. Even the big ones are usually fired in 3 or 4 round bursts.

Not many people (if anyone) could fire an automatic weapon accurately after 2 or 3 shots.

As for “silencers” they reduce the volume but are still loud. Fully silenced weapons don’t exist above a low caliber gun (.22) because anything else would travel faster than the speed of sound and you would hear that breaking the sound barrier.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bad cases make bad laws...

And in this case, Cody Wilson is his mission’s own worst enemy. He comes across as a completely juvenile bomb-thrower

How so? He just put some plans on a website. He even went to the trouble of following the law, like by including a chunk of metal in the plans. It’s the government that made a big deal out of it.

What would have been the ideal test case? A CAD file for a more reliable gun? A rifle?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bad cases make bad laws...

Yeah, in a few years, anarchy will reign and you will be sitting—living in the trenches, with the portable solar powered Guns n’ Rockets 3D printer always in reach. After a few months advancing to the super market, taking inch by inch in a ferocious battle, you finally arrive at the front door. It looks suspiciously clean, what with all the battered storefronts and sinkholes, filled with bodies and feces down the road. But no feces on that door. Whatever, you think, and proceed inching forward, with the picture of Twinkies already watering your mouth. That’s when a SUV pulls over and the SWAT team jumps out. “You’ve crossed into New York State territory! By the power of bureaucracy, accept the gift that the spirit of the Administrative Procedures Act has bestowed upon us, for it saved us from the evil clutches of The Files!” With one hand you slowly reach into your pocket, where the printer is blinking erratically. For a moment your finger slide over the USB drive connected to the printer. Should you really hand it over? Give up the leisure life? After all, you were feeling really great on your low-all diet, with all the junk food gone. And remember the date you had down 23rd trench at Dumb Square? Without the printer you never would have had the plastic chairs, the plastic table and the plastic spaghetti. They shall prey the USB drive from your dead, cold hands! “To the glory of Cody Wilson”, you scream, while you are being delivered democracy by a drone.

Fear, you must.

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Bad cases make bad laws...

3d printed guns are a legitimately frightening idea

No, they’re not. I understand that you find that frightening, but that doesn’t make you "right" and everyone who disagrees with you "wrong".

I honestly find the idea of stripping guns away from all law abiding citizens an insanely frightening idea. Far worse than acknowledging that it is impossible to prevent the spread of knowledge to those who are seeking it and willing to break the law to get it and maybe instead encouraging those same law abiding citizens to seek said knowledge as well for the benefit of everyone.

Anonymous Whacko says:

Gee, does this mean I can’t bye a 3d printer to make a gun that can shoot 2-3 rounds before it fails? Now I’ll never find the cad files…

( unless I use google….. )

Why do we elect brainless idiots into government? Oh yea, now I remember. They filter out anyone who isn’t corrupt before they get through the primaries.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: A Taurus

>a gun that can shoot 2-3 rounds before it fails?

Oh, so you’d be making a Taurus!

I reserve the right to make such comments about Taurus after regrettably actually purchasing one. I keep it as a reminder of poor judgement. Though it didn’t fail as dramatically as a 3D printed piece of resin, both are better used as paperweights.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s not just free speech that this and other governments are trying to censor, it’s everything and everyone that they dont like because they dont control everything and everyone. the internet opened up the possibility of stopping those with money and power from doing whatever they wanted, undetected by us mere mortals. once it was realised that we could find out what the fuckers were up to in word and deed, out came the knives to get politicians to change laws, add new laws all designed to keep the ‘few’ in the clear and us ‘in the dark’ and it wont change until these basically Conservative govts get removed from office

Anonymous Coward says:

> Even if you hate guns and think the 2nd Amendment should go away, please think carefully about what the world looks like when the government is allowed to censor speech that it claims is a risk to national security.

Is there some loss of freedom that you would be willing to accept? For example, does it bother you that the distribution of child pornography is banned?

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, apples and oranges. Mike noted specifically the government waving a national security flag to censor speech, because it doesn’t hold to the narrow established categories, and in fact has been shown to have disastrous effects.

Compare with the distribution of Child Pornography, the creation and distribution of which can have negative effects on the child well into adulthood, and stands in one of those established, narrow categories. It is explicitly recognized in his statements in this article that in fact there are places where that power exists.

As a note however, while I agree with criminalizing the creation and distribution of child pornography in most cases, I disagree with criminalization of nude selfies by minors and the criminalization of possession of child pornography in general.

In the first case, the logic behind the criminalization becomes warped, and serves no deterrent effect to future action – the perpetrator is the victim, and by the time these cases go to trial are no longer capable of exploiting themselves.

In the second, possession of child pornography that the possessor did not create effectively punishes him for someone else’s crime. Moreover, a crime that may already have been punished. It does not ‘cure’ the victim in any way, nor does it serve a deterrent effect on the creator of the pornography any more than the crimes already committed. Once created, once distributed, it is hard to put the genie back in the bottle. As we see with both pornography and drugs, the deterring creation by drying up demand isn’t working. All it serves to do is feed prisons and a permanently unhoused and unemployed class stigmatized for uncontrollable chemicals in the brain.

Then again, I am trying to summarize complex philosophical considerations of why we should create laws vs self determination and how moralizing within inflexible legal codes leads to negative consequences, so I assume I will be eviscerated on the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The possession of child porn makes the holder a participant or accessory in the crime of sexual child abuse

No, that’s ridiculous. If I pay someone to abuse a child, sure. If I have pictures of something that happened 20 years ago? That might bother the victim but it’s not anywhere close to an "accessory". We don’t charge someone as an accessory to murder when they film a school shooting. Reporters get Pulitzer Prizes for photos of atrocities, rather than being charged as accessories.

Why should this type of crime have special status anyway? If someone films me getting mugged, it might bother me when they distribute that. It does bother me when my parents distribute various childhood photos. It doesn’t justify prior restraint.

Christenson says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There’s little doubt that children are often harmed when child pornography is created… (provided there’s no special stretch for collecting the pictures off of diaper boxes!)…and that demand for such pictures drives some harm to children.

Crimes against children are the one thing that makes you very unlikely to survive a jail sentence in the US. They anger folks in a very visceral way that is difficult to control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

demand for such pictures drives some harm to children.

That statement is much too general to make posession a crime. We should require some indication, however minor, that the creator and observer had some connection. Why is it legal to have photos of every other form of child abuse (criminal or otherwise)?

Demand for photos of expensive things probably drives some bank robberies, too. But it’s legal for me to download photos of stupid criminals posing with their spoils.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

the distribution of Child Pornography, the creation and distribution of
> which can have negative effects on the child well into adulthood

Yes, but what about child porn laws that ban material where no actual child was harmed or used to create it? Like written stories or anime cartoon?

Other than “it’s gross and icky” what’s the justification for overriding the 1st Amendment there?

Christenson says:

Re: Loss of freedom is the price of civilization...

That is, all that nice stuff of ours was made by someone besides ourselves. It’s very much a question of how much freedom we are willing to give up in return. Why can’t I own slaves??

By the way, your post above is a risk to national security and the government should censor it!

The main problem with this situation is that rather than thinking things through, there’s this hysterical moral panic afoot, because 2nd amendment, 1st amendment, and fear and danger!

Now, as to the crux: For about $2500, basically anyone can make their own gun, such as an AR47, assuming they can follow instructions, use some lube, and find ammo. It’s out there, it’s been Streisanded, no putting the cat back in the bag.

Containing knowledge has always been difficult…and with the internet, it’s just getting harder. We are going to have to make our peace with that unalterable fact of our existence.

pegr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Loss of freedom is the price of civilization...

“For about $2500, basically anyone can make their own gun, such as an AR47”

Nonsense. For about $350, basically anyone can make their own rifle, such as an AR15. The gun component of an AR15 is the lower receiver, a regulated item you can purchase for as low as $40. Everything else is mail order to your doorstep.

ldd (profile) says:

and the mass media is going batshit crazy, as usual

My wife likes to watch CBS news… so CBS was on this morning during breakfast. During the coverage of the 3D printed guns case, I had to pause every 5 seconds to correct every bloody thing the reporter was saying.

CBS is just one example. The rest of the coverage from supposedly “serious” news outlets, aka the mainstream media, was just as bad. I’ve long known that the MSM almost never handles tech stories correctly, because that’s my field. I’d listen to reporters explain things very badly and shake my head. Eventually, I discovered that the same ineptitude extended to just about everything they cover. (Yes, even the weather.) This is particularly aggravating when it comes to politics and the law because the scale at which they misinform the masses is slowly but surely eroding our liberties. The MSM keeps repeating that line about how the First Amendment is subject to some sort of “balancing act” and then the masses believe it, and they act as if it were the law of the land. If they heard it from some “respected” news outlet, it must be true, right? Good grief!

Demographically, I’m smack dab in the middle of the group of people that outlets like CBS, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, are trying to appeal to, but they do such a terrible job where and when it matters that I cannot support them. I support TechDirt, and sites that explain how it actually is. I do believe that journalism is essential to a robust democracy but I don’t believe that CBS, the WP or the NYT are *themselves* essential.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: and the mass media is going batshit crazy, as usual

I’m pretty sure the reason why the MSM is going crazy about “EVIL RUSSIAN HACKERS” all the time is because they’re starting to realize the citizens are becoming more and more aware of the MSM’s bullshit.

They’re scapegoating someone else for misleading the public in the hopes that the public doesn’t realize it’s been them all along.

Mike says:

Re: Re:

Fully plastic guns aren’t really viable yet and are also illegal to manufacture. But even if someone was to make a single shot plastic gun and try to get it past security, ammunition is made out of metals that can be detected and animals like dogs could sniff out the cordite propellant quite easily.

In reality things like ceramic knives are more of a security threat than plastic guns.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Fully plastic guns aren’t really viable yet and are also illegal to manufacture.

The only metal part this gun needs to function (whether it’s "viable" is debatable) is a nail, to use as a firing pin. The plans also say to add a large block of metal; that’s just for legal compliance, so metal detectors will see it.

"Illegal to manufacture" doesn’t mean much. The people we’re concerned about aren’t known to follow the law, which is kind of the point. They’re not going to embed the metal block.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The Plastic gun, even if it had ZERO Metal in it is worthless without any bullets. Bullets are Metal and are EASILY detectable. Working in a Food Factory where WE have a number of different Metal Detectors. They have no problem detecting something smaller than a normal BB.

A Bullet is much larger than a BB. Out metal detectors would easily go off on either of them. Bring your ticking time bomb of a plastic gun. I wouldn’t use it.

Look up Zip Gun on Google. I’d be far more worried about something like that than a Plastic gun. I’m not worried about those either. But hey, people have to get hysterical over something I guess no matter how dumb it is.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

In the film, Malkovich (the assassin) made a single-shot polymer firearm. He brought it to a presidential fundraiser with the intent of shooting the president. Realizing that the bullet is the one component that couldn’t defeat the magnetometers, he hollowed out a rabbits foot and attached it to his key ring. He put the bullet inside the rabbits foot and when he got to the magnetometer, he put it and his keys in the little dish that is provided for people’s phones and keys which goes around the metal detectors because, duh, they’re metal. Consequently, the bullet passed through security with no problem. The gun itself contained no metal and was tucked in his waistband and passed through with no issue. When Malkovich got to his seat in the ballroom, he unscrewed the end of the rabbits foot, removed the bullet, and loaded the gun, all out of sight under the dining table.

You ask if that would work in real life. The answer is yes.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I know exactly what happens in the film, genius. I asked if anyone had actually done such a thing, not whether you think the screenwriters and director did a good enough job of making it seem realistic enough.

If so, fine. If not, you are citing works of fiction as proof of something, which is not a good thing.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

How would we know if anyone had successfully smuggled a bullet through security by hiding it in something else?

If they were successful, no one but them would know about it, genius.

The fact remains that a bullet is indeed small enough to be hidden inside something that’s typically put in the dish that goes around the magnetometer unscreened, which means doing it is a workable strategy.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Assassination

In the real schools of political assassinations, one bullet, even at point blank, is considered high-risk of failure, even if you dip it in cyanide or feces (the latter probably working better) and make it a hollow point or high-explosive.

There’s simply too much risk of a single shot missing, of it not doing enough damage to critical points.

And failed assassinations tend to a) get a lot of innocent people killed in retalitory purges and b) make future assassination attempts harder as security is tightened.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

So, you’re sticking with “a Hollywood screenwriter imagined something” as your citation for this? Again, I don’t doubt that this could have happened, but that’s not a citation of fact.

“If they were successful, no one but them would know about it, genius”

I’m fairly sure that it would be noticed after it had been used.

“which means doing it is a workable strategy.”

It could well be. But, did it happen outside of the imagination of a screenwriter? If so, that’s what you need to use as a citation. If not, then it’s pointless to bring up in an argument about facts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Even if a gun were fully made of plastic, and if the plastic were theoretically strong enough to withstand a decent amount of repeated force, how do you avoid the obvious issue of ammunition?

Are the bullets supposed to be made of plastic, too? I highly doubt that. Sounds like this “fully plastic gun” idea becomes a lot less scary when you realize guns need bullets to be fully functional. Unless you’re worried about people going around pistol-whipping each other with plastic guns, that is.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“guns need bullets to be fully functional”

Fully functional, yes, but they can still have the desired effect if they look good enough to harm people. Not every use of a gun requires it to fire anything.

Also, you’re making the classic mistake of looking at how tech is now and making all judgment made on that. 3D printing is an area of rapid advancement at the moment, how do you know that such bullets cannot be printed also in 5 years?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Ban? Possibly not. Regulate them so they have to have red tips and other things to easily distinguish them from real weapons? Yes, if I understand the restrictions on replica weapons in the US that’s exactly what happens.

Would those regulations not apply to other fake weapons just because you made them at home?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You can’t make bullets out of Plastic. Not in 5 years, not in 50 years. For one thing, it couldn’t hold up to the pressure. You know, all that pressure that makes the bullet shoot out at a high rate of speed. They already blow up after 2,3 shots in a plastic gun, and you think you could make a plastic bullet that fits in a plastic gun? HAHAHAHA

Now say that magically the bullet fires and works. It’s shooting out a Plastic Slug. The friction head alone going through the barrel would melt it and maybe even jam up, but ignore even that, it somehow doesn’t blow up and the slug comes out, then what?

A Plastic bullet is not going to penetrate a person. That is IF it even went straight in the first place and didn’t just fly off in some weird direction.

It’s beyond laughable. I remember Mythbusters trying to make Ice Bullets. The Myth being, Someone gets shot with it and then it melts away leaving no evidence. At least those had a metal bullet casing and a real gun and they still couldn’t get it to do anything to harm anyone even at best case.

I don’t care what magical PLASTIC you think they could come up within 5 years that won’t have all the issues and can’t be detected by a metal detector. Or even 50 years from now.

I think you should be more worried about a Plastic LASER Gun in the future. Pew, pew.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Open source crypto software?

Yes, crypto was called a “munition” by the government (still is actually, though you just have to email some government address before exporting now). People joked about mounting second-amendment defenses; in the end, they went with the first amendment: exporting it in book form, and later tshirt form, because they knew judges understood the first-amendment implications of ruling a book illegal and wouldn’t want to do it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Open source crypto software?

Before the usual suspects jump in to complain about that distinction – yes, guns do have constructive uses, but they all come from their destructive nature.

The reason why they can be effective as a deterrent is because people know they can kill them. Yes, you can choose to shoot at a target instead of a person, but the destructive force is the same no matter where you point it, and so on.

Alternatively, things like cars and crypto and have destructive uses, but their primary purpose is constructive. Crypto’s primary purpose is to obscure things, the car to transport. A gun’s primary purpose is to put holes in things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: On A “Potential For Harm To Society” Basis ...

I’m not 100% up on all the child porn court cases, but I seem to recall there being some info out there somewhere about drawn/animated/created material that has a child-looking subject, and some of that isn’t illegal because it didn’t use actual children in its creation.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Child porn depictions not involving children

There are no federal laws regarding child porn that doesn’t actually involve children in its making, but the prevalence of lolicon (hentai, originally imported from Japan that depicts children or childlike persons in sexual situations) caused the issue to become reconsidered.

As it is, blue states typically allow for cartoon child sex, lolicon and computer renders (even realistic ones, but good luck explaining CGI CP to law enforcement.) and red states outlaw them as if they are child porn, involving real children. Check your state and county as in some cases it varies from county to county.

Note that before the 1970s and the rise of the Satan scare, the US cared little about child sex or child sexual abuse, so long as it was under the color of marriage. We still today have judges who will okay the marrying of 11-year-old girls, thereby licensing their (often much older) husbands to have sex with them and otherwise abuse them.

So regarding child welfare, child porn, human rights involving children and protecting children from abuse (sexual or otherwise), the US sucks, and really doesn’t care all that much.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: On A “Potential For Harm To Society” Basis ...

Because then you get into the muddy areas of “what constitutes a weapon” and general censorship of 3D printing as a whole.

Put it this way, there’s plenty of things online to tell you have to make other homemade weapons. How much censorship of books and the general internet do you feel is acceptable before you’re sure that instructions to make a pipe bomb aren’t available (bearing in mind that this could start banning many fictional books, movies, thousands of things that only have tangential relationships to what’s being banned).

There’s also the fact that child porn has both a definite victim and is illegal material on its own. Instructions to build a gun might be useful for many reasons that have nothing to do with illegal activity, whereas child porn always includes one.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: On A “Potential For Harm To Society” Basis ...

Because child pornography is an established, clearly-defined category exception to the First Amendment, and "build-your-own terrorist-weapon plans" are not. The Supreme Court has made its opposition to declaring new categorical exceptions to the First Amendment clear; see US v Stevens and Brown v EMA.

John Smith says:

Drunk-driving stops violate the Fifth Amendment, but are allowed both under the rational-basis and comnpelling-interest exceptions that also0 legitimize affirmative-action, which violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

Rational basis (in this case preventing gun violence) is all they need, even if he law would otherwise be unconstitutional.

Seegras (profile) says:

Europe and other countries

It’s illegal to manufacture and own guns for which you have no permit/license, but it doesn’t matter whether you own files to print them.

At least the German police just clarified that.

That is the sensible position.

Anonymous Coward says:


What Defense Distributed did was publish, for free, numerical files that can be fed into a CAM (computer-aided machine), otherwise known as a “3d printer.”

This is in fact identical to what Zimmermann did with PGP — which the US Government threatened to toss him in jail for decades ago — he published, for free, computer code (numerical files) that when compiled by a user resulted in “Pretty Good Privacy”, an encryption program that the government didn’t want certain people to have.

The government had no authority to do that inside the United States, as the 1st Amendment prohibits such a thing. However, under ITAR (an export law; the Federal Government clearly does have the right to constrain trade with foreign nations) they could allegedly prohibit “munitions” from being exported from the United States to nations the government didn’t like.

They classified his speech as a “munition” and thus threatened to jail him because someone might access same from a “prohibited nation outside the US” and if they did they claimed that Zimmermann, not the person making the access, was responsible.

In response to the threat people started printing the source code on T-shirts and wearing them, among other acts of disobedience. The government eventually gave up. We have civilian encryption widely available today only as a consequence of that.

You could not, in fact, use the Internet to make a financial transaction without this, as OpenSSL, the library that provides security for virtually all such transactions today, including mundane things like reading this blog with “https”, would be illegal to make available in source but for the fact that Zimmermann refused to back down and a bunch of people in this nation, myself included told the government to go **** a duck.

Further, nobody in the United States could have ever sold, published, given away or otherwise made available anywhere at any time any computer program of any sort that contained any sort of encryption without a license from the government. It would have been illegal for the FreeBSD foundation, RedHat, SuSE and others to give away their FreeBSD and Linux operating systems without having a license and tracking where every single download and use of their code went to “prevent” someone from, for example, taking a device with same into a place the government doesn’t like — such as Cuba or Iran.

Jeff Green (profile) says:

Sauce for the goose

A great many Americans get very upset about the EU courts trying to impose EU law outside their jurisdiction, the same things can be said in reverse. In almost all the world these weapons are illegal, maybe not in the few counties working with pre-industrial revolution systems of law, but for modern countries definitely illegal.
A written constitution does this. In the modern world courts wrestle with attempting a sane balance between competing rights. We tend to feel our right not to be shot by madmen trumps the right of nitwits to distribute firearms, and full instructions to produce a weapon from systems with genuine alternative uses with no particular skill are in all sensible definitions weapons.
If these people made strenuous efforts to prevent people outside the USA accessing the information there may be a decent argument for applying US only law to websites but I’d like to see a site of which I am very fond not forgetting that not everything in US law is entirely rational!
Neither of the first two amendments to the constitution should in the eyes of many rational people be applied without regard to balance. And ant document that needs to be amended to ensure it applies to 20% of the World’s population probably needed a complete rewrite a long time ago!

Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone conflating instructions for printing a gun with child porn is making a huge mistake based purely on the logic of “I don’t like this (and assume no socially acceptable person does) so therefore it should be banned.”
1. The entire purpose of the 1st ammendment is to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech does not require protection. No one seeks to repress it.
2. The “amount of harm” related to speech is irrelevant. There is literally no upper limit on the amount of harm that can be related to speech. Speech (outside of direct orders to commit harm) does not cause harm. A photograph of mass graves of jews or Hiroshima in 1945 are not contributory to those acts. Descriptions of crimes are not illegal. Instructions on how to commit crimes are not illegal. Graphic evidence of crimes that is deeply embarassing to the victims is not illegal. Child pornography exists in a strange alternate legal dimension where the 1st ammendment stops applying for reasons that are not entirely clear and best described as “just because”. Why anyone would want to extend that logic to additional topics like guns is baffling.
3. Even if point 2 is ignored, anyone who even casually reads TD should be familiar with just how completely absurd the war against Child Pornography has gotten. The stereotype of ugly middle aged white men molesting babies on camera os vanishingly rare compared to the amount of CP produced by consenting teenagers sending pictures of their junk to each other. To make a blanket statement that “CP is so harmful that it must be banned” implicitly ignores that the vast majority of “Child Porn” was created consensually (unless you want to go down that road that decides for people that they weren’t old enough to consent to actions they performed willfully and deliberately without coercion).
4. Even ignoring all of the above making and possessing child porn IS actually illegal (regardless of whether or not it should be). The making and possessing of a 3D printed firearm is NOT (regardless of whether or not it should be). The CAM files in question are not illegal to possess or use. The ONLY thing being discussed here is whether it is legal to “export” them and whether the definition of “export” covers anything made available through the internet. I would be surprised if any reasonable person wanted to even attempt to argue that because it is so completely absurd on its face. A computer server is not engaged in international trade and the conveyance of information on how to make guns beyond the US borders is not the same as packing guns in a box and shipping them overseas. Printing off gun milling instructions into paper form and transporting them overseas would be unquestionably legal. That ideas can somehow become illegal when encoded into a digital format is ridiculous.

John85851 (profile) says:

Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

Personally, I think the outrage over 3D printed guns is mostly about nothing. Like the article says, 3D files have been available for a while for anyone who wants to look for them. Then why is everyone getting so upset now? It is because one court said it was okay? Where was this “outrage” when other courts were talking about the issue?

One of my friends made an excellent comment on Facebook:
I’m going to 3D print a nuclear bomb! Then all I need is radioactive material, a detonator, a fuse, a timer, priming caps, and so on.
In other word, and all the other things needed to make a working weapon.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

“Then why is everyone getting so upset now?”

Because the people who are outraged just discovered it. Not everybody is paying as close attention to these things, and even those who knew about 3D printing didn’t make the leap to “someone could make a weapon” until they were told about it.

“In other word, and all the other things needed to make a working weapon.”

Except the expertise and knowledge. That’s essentially what the problem is here. Traditionally, anyone can make a gun, but you need the tools, the skills and the knowledge. With this, all you need is a printer. Generally speaking, most people won’t bother to even try learning how to make a gun, but a lot of people who wouldn’t have done that might start doing it with 3D printing.

There is a slight difference between “anyone can make a weapon if they learn to do it” and “anyone can make a weapon if they click this button”. Whatever your reaction to that, it is different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

but a lot of people who wouldn’t have done that might start doing it with 3D printing.

And most of those will injure themselves, because unless the printer is set up just right they will have made a grenade rather than a gun. Also, many will not understand the limitations of such weapons, and keep on firing it until it fall apart in their hands.

Achieving maximum strength and accuracy from any 3d printer requires the skill and knowledge to get it tuned in properly for the material you are using.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

Another person making the mistake of thinking that the overall problem get be dismissed just because the current technology makes it unlikely or the execution unreliable. Reminds me of all the people I remember saying that movie piracy wouldn’t be a thing online because the maximum speed that the majority can get is 56K. Recognising where tech can go in the future is more useful than basing everything on its current state, because it will change.

As with AI and other issues right now, the discussion may seem far-fetched with current technology, but it’s certainly worth having them before and not after the problems become a reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

The whole discussion over whether or not knowledge should be controlled tends to be pointless, as once it becomes known that something is possible, many others can work on duplicating the work, and improving on it. These days almost anyone can obtain and set up a workshop based on CNC machines, and go on YouTube to learn how to use them.

I think most of the panic over a plastic gun is based on the possibility that it will get past metal detectors. It is ignoring the inherent limitation of the materials used. A plastic gun is a bulky weapon for its caliber, and it is a single shot weapon with limited reload life. Also, it cannot be sighted in, due to the limited number of round it can fire, along with rapid barrel wear, so it will have to be used at short range to be sure of hitting a target.

Also, doubt that it would be easy to get it past an x-ray scan, or a cursory pat-down.

Also, any solution to a perceived problem that involves controlling knowledge, or things that people can own is focused on the wrong issues, and doomed to failure. Look at how effective the UK hand gun ban has been at keeping hand guns out of the hands of criminals.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

“These days almost anyone can obtain and set up a workshop based on CNC machines, and go on YouTube to learn how to use them”

Yes, but the point of this issue is that they don’t even have to bother doing that. Now, instead of enthusiasts who are willing to take the time and energy to learn a useful craft in order to create these things, it can be any random idiot capable of downloading a file and printing it. That changes the stakes somewhat.

“A plastic gun is a bulky weapon for its caliber, and it is a single shot weapon with limited reload life”

Possibly. But why do you think that those designs and materials will be the only things that can be 3D printed in the future? Like I keep saying, that’s the sticking point. You might as well be trying what’s right to be concerned about with today’s tech by considering the state of the home PC market in 1978. It may not evolve that far, but it certainly can and it’s an area of rapid innovation.

“Also, any solution to a perceived problem that involves controlling knowledge, or things that people can own is focused on the wrong issues, and doomed to failure.”

This is very true. However, that does not mean that it’s the only solution or that the problem is not real.

“Look at how effective the UK hand gun ban has been at keeping hand guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Relatively pretty effective compared to the US, unless you think that “effective” means “reduced to zero”, in which case you’re not dealing with the real world. Plus, there’s the fact that the handgun ban came into place following a school shooter that used them – the final school shooting in UK history to date, 20 years later.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

it can be any random idiot capable of downloading a file and printing it. That changes the stakes somewhat.

And such an idiot has a better than 50 percent chance of injuring or killing themselves. Unless everything, including loading of required materials, and inspection of parts is fully automated, it is all too easy to do something to compromise the strength of something that is marginal at best. Such a machine is unlikely to a home machine, because of the material stocking and management issues, as allowing the user to load materials gives them an opportunity to load say the wrong type of steel.

Also, it is quite possible to build a single shot close range weapon without any metal, and using nothing more than knives and scissors etc. A paper tube is surprisingly strong, as witnessed by the fireworks industry, and a larger bore black powder weapon can be built to use say a marble.

The lack of such weapons indicate that there is not much demand for them, and Cody Wilson has jumped on a band wagon, rather than thinking through what is the easiest and most reliable way to produce such a weapon.

However, that does not mean that it’s the only solution or that the problem is not real.

In many cases the problem is not that some people want a gun, but rather that society has marginalized some people, and a few people in that situation will lash out at society. Those that decide to lash out are extremely unlike to go for a single shot weapon, but rather obtain weapons with much higher capacity, or build some type of bomb. Lets be honest here, a sword or machete, or large knife is much more dangerous than a single shot gun, hell, even a vehicle is more dangerous when someone decide attack society. The problem is not that it is possible for someone to build weapons, but rather that a few people want to use weapons, and that is not a problem that politicians wish to address, because it requires them to tackle the inequalities in society.

As to UK firearms crimes, they have not changed, or crept up slightly since the handgun ban. Beside which, with both Hungerford and Dumblane, various people in official capacities ignored or overlooked warning signs that existed for several months at least before the events. My complaint about the handgun ban is that it has hurt law abiding citizens, while having no impact on the criminals.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

“And such an idiot has a better than 50 percent chance of injuring or killing themselves”

With current technology, yes.

“Also, it is quite possible to build a single shot close range weapon without any metal, and using nothing more than knives and scissors etc.”

Yes, but again a person wishing to do so has to learn how to do it. There’s a lower bar than making a “proper” weapon, but it still takes a lot more effort than clicking a button.

“The lack of such weapons indicate that there is not much demand for them”

But, you can’t honestly be saying that the demand or impact will be comparable in any way to “click this button and gun comes out X minutes later”?

“In many cases the problem is not that some people want a gun, but rather that society has marginalized some people, and a few people in that situation will lash out at society.”

…and this sort of stuff gives them much quicker and easier access to the weapons to use for that.

“Lets be honest here, a sword or machete, or large knife is much more dangerous than a single shot gun, hell, even a vehicle is more dangerous when someone decide attack society”

There’s a few people in Las Vegas and other US cities in the last year who might wish to argue about that one.

“Beside which, with both Hungerford and Dumblane, various people in official capacities ignored or overlooked warning signs that existed for several months at least before the events”

Indeed they did, which is why the gun bans in both cases were not the only thing that changed in the aftermath.

“My complaint about the handgun ban is that it has hurt law abiding citizens, while having no impact on the criminals.”

I don’t really agree in either case, but then I neither grew up in a high crime area of the UK nor did I ever have the desire to use, let alone own one. But, “criminals ignore law X / haven’t been stopped by law X” is not a reason not to have it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

The problem with your argument is that it leads to a society where individuals are not allowed to own tools because somebody might abuse them, and or the Internet is tightly controlled so that no body can publish anything that the government decides is dangerous. That is how and why the world of 1984 could be built a few decades late, but built none the less.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

The problem with your argument is that it takes things to the most extreme. I could equally say that not regulating such things will inevitably lead to a Mad Mad wasteland where only those with access to 3D printers rule the Earth.

Most likely, neither will happen, but there is a medium between “no speech” and “everything is permitted”. As it has been to some degree since we learned to talk. There is a discussion that needs to be had here, so why not try having a realistic one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Yet more outrage over mostly nothing

How about throw shall bot carry a loaded gun in public places, but only load it when on the range or hunting ground. That is place restriction on the carrying of guns, and also impose sensible storage requirement when they are not being carried. Such restrictions do not impact the intent of the second amendment, the guns are still available if and when an armed uprising becomes necessary.

It is impossible to stop the spread of knowledge, though in some cases, like the anarchist cook book, it often poses more danger to those who try and use it than anyone else. Also, you cannot ban machine tools, or prevent a determined person from making a gun. Even if it is just down to pushing a button, they also have to get the materials and load up a machine, and also produce the G-Code from the model. and also obtain black powder or ammunition.

A a major part of the gun problem in the US is the idea, culled from Hollywood, that they are a serious and useful self defense option. Interestingly, in the old west, many towns banned the carrying of guns inside the town, as alcohol and guns do not mix well.

Many a debate goes off of the rails because the loudest voices are for all or nothing solutions. How society dels with that issue, and comes up with sensible answers is a problem, especially as all or nothing is the usual mode for politicians where they should be a moderating voice.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Booze and heavy machinery

That’s something that I’ve noticed peculiar. People get amazingly stupid around recreational libations, booze or otherwise and can do enough damage without taking responsibility over heavy or dangerous machinery.

I actually wonder, when we look at domestic violence, homicides and so on, in what rate of incidents are drugs / alcohol involved?

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m really getting tired of these Activist Judges that throw out some ruling that stops everything in the whole country. how the F is that even possible. It wasn’t the Supreme court.

The DUMB A$$ judge just stepped all over the 1st amendment of the constitution in his ruling. So at some point, it’s going to be thrown out. Hell he should be booted as a judge for being this dumb.

By the way, ANYONE can make their own guns. You can make a much simpler, safer gun to use than Plastic Garbage.

By the way, a Plastic Gun is 100% worthless without any bullets. Bullets, by the way, are easily Metal Detectable!!!! So after you magically get by a Metal Detector with your Metal Bullets, you have 2 or 3 shows maybe before the plastic gun blows up in your face. WOW.

That so makes it worth the dumb judge stepping all over the constitution of this country. Along with all the other people that are against the guns.

By the way, all the info to make the guns are out on the Internet anyway. All this is doing to making the people against the guns feel better. When in reality, it’s more going down the slippery slope of our rights disappearing!!!

Bu the way. I don’t own a single gun.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Printed guns have already made their debut...

…in Africa, where humanitarian groups print prototypes of AKs in order to arm tribes before the local warlord sends his soldiers to massacre them. (That happens a lot.)

Mind you, these are not plastic guns from the printer, but guns made of metal, their gun parts cast from molds using 3D printed prototypes. This is how 3D printers will be used to make guns in the US. (We already have enthusiasts who engineer their own guns without 3D printed prototypes, by hand-crafting prototypes. It’s not illegal anywhere any more than home-packed ammunition is.

Eventually, though, we will invent a printer that can cast metal or ceramic, and then we’ll have real printed guns whenever we want them.

Then there are gun parts and accessories, some of which work fine made from printed resin. We have dozens of those, and designers world wide who share their creations online.

I think this is a good thing, given the big gun manufacturing companies have been total dicks for decades, and now resort to instilling paranoia and fear and insecurity to sell guns. Printing will open up the market to smaller designers and home manufacturers. Perhaps ones that are more sensible in their marketing. We might even get handle biometrics to make some guns keyed to their owners.

But it also means anyone who wants a gun for fiendish purposes is going to be able to get one without borrowing one that is bio-locked. It means we’re ultimately going to have to address the issues that drive people to heinous deeds with guns like rampage killing.

Which is good, since we really don’t want our men run amuck to rediscover arson, which commonly doesn’t involve guns at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Printed guns have already made their debut...

Eventually, though, we will invent a printer that can cast metal or ceramic,

Casting is so old school, these days metal and ceramics can be 3d printed by laser sintering of powder layers. Also flame deposition of metals, (basically spray a powder through and acetylene flame), and arc welding technology can be used to build metal parts. The latter technologies usually create parts that need machining to finish. Combined deposition and machining centers are being made, capable of making a singe object from multiple metals, and switching between deposition and maching as the part is built up.. The machines are big and heavy, and expensive to both buy and run, but if you have a million or so to spare…

Christenson says:

Re: Re: Printed guns have already made their debut...

It is within my memory that a 3D printer cost a million dollars…if you could buy it at all.

So it’s not hard to imagine that A 3-D printer with metal gets down to the few thousand dollar range soon. It’s largely an economy of scale. A likely intermediate step would be a metal/plastic composite, or a metal/wire composite.

Destruction is becoming easier..and when it becomes suddenly easier, people panic!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Printed guns have already made their debut...

A likely intermediate step would be a metal/plastic composite, or a metal/wire composite.

Metal plastic composites are available for existing 3d printers, and while the results are attractive, they lack strength. Plastic with carbon or glass fiber loadings are also available, and do have better strength. Also a 3d printer that embed a continuous fiber in the print is also available.

Metal deposition is either an arc welder, or a flame metal deposition technique. Arc welders are readily available, while flame deposition is less readily available, it can be obtained, neither are techniques you want to use inside the house, or without the requisite safety gear. Adding the working ends to a CNC mill is not that difficult, though generating or writing the g-code will be more difficult. Also, the more exotic materials are expensive.

In practice the same end results can be achieved, at least within the limits of what is available to the home user, by manual welding, and CNC machining. O.K. that involves more setups, but fewer failures, and for one of parts, likely quicker.

Christenson says:

Re: Re:

Depends on lots of things, YMMV:
my desires,
my budget,
how I think the gubm’nt will react if they know (I might be a felon and get my butt arrested!)
whether I can just borrow time on someone else’s printer or CNC…
do I want one weapon, or ten?
What do I want that weapon to look like?
Do I want a 3D printer for other things, too???
Do I want to indulge my fantasy that I can design weapons??

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: A fantasy of designing weapons.

There are, actually, lots of hobbyists who do. It’s often not as complex an ambition as making the next AK-47 (that is the next, perfect trooper rifle) or the next perfect hunting rifle. Some want to be able to create an instrument that hits faraway targets with mathematical precision, or that solves a problem specific to certain guns (e.g. the M1 Thumb) or just wants to know what it would be like to have a clip with 200 rounds (like the weird rifle drums of the Korean People’s Army — we only guess they are typically not fully filled, and would jam frequently if they were.)

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