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3-D Printed Guns Take On Gun Control Laws

Updated on February 25, 2013
A 3d printer that could possibly be used to create weapons for home defense.
A 3d printer that could possibly be used to create weapons for home defense. | Source

The future of 3d printing is now, apparently. Technology and gun enthusiasts are joining forces to design, create and test fire firearms made entirely from home-available 3d printers for sale. 3d printed guns are creating backlash in Washington as gun control activists try to figure out how to stop what they see as the proliferation of assault weapons when they can be made by anyone at home.

What is 3d Printing

3d printing is the ability to turn digital schematics in a computer into real objects. Open source models exist for almost anything you can think of: from shoes to mugs. Most home-available 3d printers for sale are the kind that use plastic resin to build the object.

Plastic resin is often too weak to handle the explosive pressures of firearms. However, higher end commercial models exist that can use aluminum powder to create metal objects. Also known as rapid prototyping, it was originally designed to help turn computer-assisted design models into physical objects for manufacturing companies.

DEFCAD Website Blows Doors off Gun Control Lobby

The Defense Distributed website DEFCAD has become incredibly popular since congress members have started hitting the airwaves insisting on bans against rapid prototyping guns. As many as 3,000 visits per hour have come to the site to download their successfully tested extended capacity ammunition clips. These magazines are the target of Sen. Diane Feinstein's (D-CA) efforts to bring back the 1994-2004 ban on extended clips.

Lawmakers Trying to Write New 3d Printed Gun Laws

In addition to Feinstein's bill, other congressmen are looking to extend a ban on all-plastic weapons that sunsets this year. Originally written to ban weapons that could get past metal detectors at airports and other secure locations, the bill could be used to ban the manufacture of all-plastic guns for personal use at one's home.

Social Pressure on Printer Companies to Turn Off 3d Printer Gun Parts

Pressure from anti-gun groups has pressured mainstream 3d printer companies into demanding rented printers be returned. Efforts to have a printer recognize certain shapes and keep them from printing have been suggested. Similar abilities keep commercial grade copiers and printers from reproducing U.S. currency for counterfeiters.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was quoted by Forbes as saying “High capacity magazines are part of the weapons of choice of mass murderers. The more opportunities to stop a mass shooter, the better.” The goal of Defense Distributed is to show that high capacity magazine ban would be impossible to enforce.

Need an ATF License to Sell 3D Printed Guns

DEFCAD has not admitted making an entire firearm from 3d printed gun parts because it believes it needs an ATF license to do so. However, they are quick to point out that it is nearly impossible to regulate such licenses in a world where anyone can make anything. Other activists respond by suggesting since the gun parts and the weapons themselves will be impossible to control in this new environment, that gunpowder itself should be controlled.

As 3d printers become more advanced and less expensive, this issue will be at the flash point of U.S. politics for quite some time to come.

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