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Ear to the Ground

Can’t Buy a Gun? Soon You Can Print One

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Posted on Oct 5, 2012
mikepetrucci (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is not a printed gun. But in short time it could be.

A new dimension is emerging in the battle between gun enthusiasts and their less-thrilled opponents. A 3-D printer, which is exactly what it sounds like, has been used to make parts for a firearm. The composite gun works, and the plans are available freely online.

Smithsonian reports that a person with the username HaveBlue posted pictures of the parts he or she printed on a forum for gun aficionados. “It’s had over 200 rounds of .22 through it so far and runs great! To the best of my knowledge, this is the world’s first 3D printed firearm to actually be tested,” HaveBlue wrote. He or she was proud to have survived the testing, saying: “No, it did not blow up into a bazillion tiny plastic shards and maim me for life - I am sorry to have disappointed those of you who foretold doom and gloom.”

Stratsys, the company that manufactures the printer that was used to make the gun is anxious over the development. It sent a cease-and-desist letter to a group called “Defense Distributed,” which is so excited about the prospect of do-it-yourself gun manufacture that it’s raising money to launch a website called the “Wiki Weapon Project,” where anyone who wants to make a gun could presumably find the necessary plans. The effort attracted favorable attention from investors before being shut down by IndiGogo, a site that hosts crowd-sourced fundraising.

Whether or not it is legal to print guns is unclear at the moment. As Wired’s Danger Room reports:

“The laws were written assuming people could make their own guns … the law still does regulate and restrict that,” Daniel Vice, senior attorney at the Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells Danger Room. Guslick likely didn’t violate any laws surrounding the manufacturing of the gun without a license, as it’s only for personal use. If he attempted to sell the pistol, or opened up a factory producing the weapons, he’d need authorization from the government.

There seems to be no reason why a functional, fully printed gun cannot be made. In any event, it will soon fall to our gridlocked and rightward-drifting Congress to write laws governing the manufacture and use of printed weapons.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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