Lawmakers speak out against 3D printed guns with Senator Richard Blumenthal saying that “these ghost guns are the new wave of American gun violence.” Senator Edward Markey says that “Donald Trump would be responsible for every 3D Printed AR 15 roaming the streets of our country.” Also, he stated, “Beginning tonight at 12:01 AM, bad people can go on Instagram and get an Instagun.” ChuckSchumerr also says that the administration is “enslaved by the NRA.” One gets the impression that these guys are worried about “The Purge.”
We’ve gone from being a $12 billion High tech industry growing at a 30% clip, saving children, repairing pets, providing jobs and being the future of all the things to now being a political football. I’ve worried about this before but this 3D printed gun backlash is actually happening. Lets recap for a moment. We’ve spoken about this topic before and are caught between bringing realism to 3D printed guns and popularizing this even more.
It has always been legal in the United States to make your own homebrew guns 3D printed, or made with whatever the technology. Ghost guns could always be made and 3D printed ghost guns could have been made for 30 years now. What so far over the past 30 years have been the cases when 3D printed ghost guns have been used for crime? What percentage of gun crimes is committed by homemade ghost guns?
Making DIY guns at home has been legal for decades. If you want to sell your gun, then you have to apply to become a gun manufacturer or distributor and your gun has to have a serial number. A group of people looking for controversy did not do this. They were invited on all the talk shows and got more money to 3D print their guns. The 3D printed gun was one guy’s idea but the media attention made it a reality. It is therefore their fault once someone gets killed. By making this a self-fulfilling prophecy and popularizing it they are making it a reality. Meanwhile, the group that first 3D printed guns is using CNC machines to make guns.
A lawsuit gets settled and immediately lawmakers spring into action to defend us from 3D printed guns. The entire media sees this as a new threat. Do none of them realise that ghost guns or 3D printed guns could have been possible for decades?
Meanwhile in these decades have crimes been committed with them? Nope. Criminals have enough guns already and can get them via traditional means. Also, other methods of manufacturing are better than 3D printing for this application.
So now lawmakers are going to spring into action to? Let me guess: implement DRM for 3D Printing as a solution. The result is that we will get separate more restrictive laws for 3D printing in the United States than for other manufacturing technologies. This can only hamper and restrict 3D printing in the United States. By demonizing 3D printing US politicians have undergone a collective failure to think things through today. We had similar freakouts in Australia and other countries before leading to bans of 3D guns but this one may have consequences unlike other things with ghost guns that just blew over.
The US is one of the leading countries in 3D printing and stands to benefit significantly from it. The US government has spent many millions over the years commercializing several 3D printing technologies that are being used for satellites, aircraft, automobiles, medical applications and in industry. With more legislation aimed just at curtailing 3D printing the US risks undoing its earlier efforts. 3D Printing is being put at a disadvantage when compared to other technologies. The US may through this hoopla harm and even retard its growth in 3D printing. US technological leadership will crumble if the US 3D printing industry is hindered uniquely.
By popularizing this issue 3D printing is coming in a negative light. Rather than putting 3D Printers in classrooms, questions will be asked and kids will get less access to 3D printers. US printers will be more expensive and less capable than others because they will need to have DRM. What’s more DRM will not be a workable solution for companies making secret things and new inventions. These companies, therefore, will no longer buy US 3D printers. Any move towards DRM for 3D printing will do irreparable harm to the US portion of the 3D printing industry while other countries will use this to their advantage.
FDM, SLA, Powder bed fusion and BinderJet are US inventions. The US has done a lot of the heavy lifting to commercialize 3D printing and relies on it for next-generation aircraft and other technologies. Now through one week of media fear mongering the US could put itself out of the 3D printing race. Short-term political goals are being placed ahead of the long-term strategic goals of the country.
Could people use the internet to exchange gun plans? Could people use the internet to plot crime? Of course, they could. But, in retrospect, the fear could be real but I think on the whole its been good for the US to have lead the way in building and rolling out the internet globally. Many billions of good.
Now an impactful technology is being smothered and restricted, in the US alone because of lobbyists and collusion. Some big content company wants DRM to restrict 3D printing. Why because we’ll print out their little puppets? Nope, because they’re afraid we’ll print out our own creations. Other politicians want to fan the flames of a problem that they will then “solve.” No one solves anything but oh it is a beautiful democracy theater for us to watch. Being so close to this thing, caring and knowing how it really works makes me worry about how they decide all the other things that I don’t know about.