We Have to Take a Stand on 3D Printed Guns


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We as a 3D Printing community to take a stand on 3D printed guns.

I don’t know where you stand politically on the gun debate, nor do I care. We must as a 3D printing industry collectively respond to the issue of getting dragged into the gun debate. We are being collectively smeared and our technology may be curtailed in its growth because of it.

Through politicians, lobbyists and rabble-rousers our industry is being politicized. Slowly but surely they will try to tear us asunder, separating us. What we need to keep in mind is that they don’t care about us or our industry. They have ulterior motives meant to lead the world towards their way of thinking. They don’t care what they say or do as long as their team wins. We should be mindful of much more powerful forces than we.

You can already make guns in the US, you just need a license to distribute guns. The essential part of the “homebrew” gun was already perfectly possible. If they really wanted to 3D print guns they could have already done this. Instead, they wanted to 3D print attention and everyone fell for it. They went looking for a law suit to prolong the window of attention on them.

The gun people sued the government and the government settled. Now one political arm is settling while the other clamours for a legal solution. It seems like the politicians have found a way for both of them to win while they solve nothing for any of us.

We’ve become a political football not through our own doing but through circumstance. On the upside, we sold over a million 3D printers before one ended up in the hands of a bad guy. Media savvy, this person interjected themselves into America’s gun debate. He became popular and sold many magazines while making comparatively few. The constant attention meant that more people talked about him.

The 3D printed gun was created by the media. It is they who I will blame once the first person dies because of this.

The media made the 3D printed gun, Cody just had the idea for it.

What if I told you that I could make any object out of glass, what would you say?  What if I got to go to all the major TV stations to tell my glass blowing story? Nothing would happen. But, what if people kept talking about how I could blow “ghost guns” out of glass? Then eventually if the media gave me enough attention, I’d get enough money and supporters to make glass blown ghost guns happen. What is occurring is that media attention has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Meanwhile, the current sharing and making of guns by the group advocating it is done using a CNC mill. The 3D printing element is just for marketing.

Making guns at home has been possible with CNC and other tools for many years. Indeed in any modern machine shop, one can find a myriad of tools much better suited to making guns than 3D printers are. Metal guns made with lathes and the like will outperform 3D printed ones by a significant margin.

The designs that are being made and distributed now are not optimized for 3D printing. Clearly, this is not being done by people who are familiar with the technology. The material choices and way they deal with certain engineering choices shows poor judgement and little 3D printing and engineering skill. It is at least reassuring that no one from our community seems to be involved. Instead, it is a group that wishes to become popular through exploiting high interest in the gun debate. This is actually very similar to how (INSERT SOMETHING ANYTHING HERE) is being politicized.

What is happening here is that certain legislators and the companies that they represent would like to implement DRM for 3D printing and restrict the technology. They periodically dig up the same lobbyist talking points: product safety, intellectual property, product liability etc. This lobbying and the same talking points are being spread in the US and EU.

It seems that there are people who wish to restrict the technology through specific legislation aimed at curtailing 3D printing.

This is inane. There is no need for separate safety, IP or liability law for 3D printing. It would be like having different free speech laws for things written by pencil from those written by pen. 3D printing is a technology for making things and should not be curtailed by laws throttling innovation.

The gun boogyman was weaned, popularized and created by the media and is now being used by lobbyists to introduce new legislation to hold back 3D printing.

3D printing democratizes innovation, production and competition. It would seem that there are people who are so afraid of this that they wish to legislate problems for 3D printing as a technology.

People have been trying since 2013 to present DRM as the solution for 3D printed guns. 

Using DRM for 3D printers would be akin to installing an app on everyone’s Google Drive or Microsoft Word to monitor for the typing of illegal phrases. Its easy to see where this in a design and engineering context could lead to problems. 

DRM for 3D printing will not work because one could always circumvent it by making your own 3D printer without DRM.

In fact, DRM for 3D printers may very well be illegal in the EU, with certain files, especially medical ones and companies deploying a DRM tool that would take patient or personal data out of the EU or handle it incorrectly could be liable for significant fines under EU privacy laws. 

On the one hand, you’re saying that we can print guns, but you’re simultaneously saying that adding some chip to every printer is going to somehow stop us?

What if I wanted to make a gun-like shape on a printer? Such as a tube, am I going to be stopped in creating this?

What if using the design freedom of 3D printing I was to make a supremely un-gunlike shape that worked as a gun? Would that be possible? Well…more than possible, along with speed, that is kind of the point of our technology.

There is nothing intrinsically new or particularly dangerous about 3D printed guns. The biggest threat at the moment is to the operator.

There are approximately 270 million guns in the US, every single one of them more dangerous and a better weapon than the 3D printed guns of now.

Having said that, if we talk about it long enough and people keep giving these guys money then they’ll get there eventually. With 3D printing, given enough eyeballs all things are shallow. 

Image Creative Commons Attribution Endlesspics.

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