The Darker Side Of 3D Print Technology
A blaze of publicity surrounded the successful firing earlier this year of the 3D printed .380 calibre Liberator handgun. City councils in Washington D.C., New York and California are now working towards banning all plastic firearms made using 3D printers. Despite having some of the tightest gun-control laws in the US, the District of Columbia is still not legally able to ban plastic printed guns and city councillors have expressed concerns describing the guns as a “significant and immediate threat to public safety.” Leland Yee, California State Senator has stated that he hops a bill will be passed outlawing 3D printed guns from being created anywhere other than in factories which are legally permitted to assemble firearms.
As the debate rages on, Federal Representative, Steve Israel (D-NY) is keen to renew the Undetectable Firearms Modernisation Act, a piece of legislation which bans guns which are not detectable by airport metal detectors. Of course, even if the Act were to be renewed, the law could still be obeyed if people included a metal slug in their 3D printed plastic guns as manufacturer Defense Distributed did for their demonstration. Lawmakers are concerned that the metal slug could easily be avoided.
Whatever the outcome of the legal wrangling, enforcement of a ban on the personal manufacture of firearms could be difficult to enforce. Current US law states that; “a person can manufacture a firearm for their own use.” However, manufacturing a weapon for sale is another matter as pointed out by Donna Sellers of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. To do so, you need a licence.
Defense Distributed does have an ATF licence which allows it to manufacture and sell guns. It seems that the world is changing. Technology now dictates that you can have whatever you want and that choice is no longer sanitised and dictated to us by nanny state politicians; whether that’s a good or bad thing is open to conjecture.
It would appear that the public are keen to embrace the new technology. The file required to produce the 3D printed Liberator was actually downloaded 100,000 times in just 48 hours. The State Department intervened however and instructed Defense Distributed to remove the file and all related data from the public domain. The technical data had evidently been released without the prior authorisation of the Directorate of Defence Trade Controls in violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. This effectively left the company in conflict with the Arms Export Control Act.
The whole debacle again raises the question of regulation of 3D printing technology and the darker implications surrounding the inevitable black market for illegal downloads it will surely spawn. In the light of the dramatic increase in terrorist activity in the Middle East over the last year and consequent heightened security, the possibility of readily available, printable firearms with ‘invisible’ shells is something that should concern all of us.
Image source: 3D Print
About Alison Page
Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at http://www.theladywriter.co.uk