5/23/2013

Government says "may be impossible" to stop 3D printing of guns

At the very least, how do you stop drug gangs from smuggling in or stealing 3D printers?  From Fox News:
A new Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin warns it could be "impossible" to stop 3D-printed guns from being made, not to mention getting past security checkpoints. . . .
The guns threaten to render 3D gun control efforts useless if their manufacture becomes more widespread.
"Significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printer files for firearms components, and difficulty regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns," warns the bulletin compiled by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center. . . .
"Limiting access may be impossible," concludes the three-page bulletin.
A source tells FoxNews.com the potential problems faced by government authorities involve securing large, high-profile events or those attended by the President, where magnetometers used to screen for weapons would not pick up a 3D printed gun.
"This is a serious threat," the law enforcement source said. "These could defeat magnetometers. The only security procedure to catch [the 3D firearms] is a pat down. Is America ready for pat-downs at every event?" . . .
Printers are relatively inexpensive:
The price range of 3D Systems printers ranges from $10k to $750k. The average would be ~$380k. But the median is much lower <$100k. . . .
More importantly, prices look to be falling dramatically very soon.
Widespread adoption of 3D printing technology may not be that far away, according to a Gartner report predicting that enterprise-class 3D printers will be available for less than $2,000 by 2016. . . .
How are you going to stop people from getting 3D printers when the prices get that low?  The hard part is designing the file, but that has apparently been done, with one already created file downloaded 100,000 times.

In any case, let me note that I still have some skepticism about these plastic guns.  The force from the explosion of the bullet seems very likely to risk having the plastic gun explode in your hands, sending shrapnel all over the place.  My advice is if you were to fire one of these guns, make sure that you are heavily protected.  I would still like to have some third party confirm that this gun works.

UPDATE: My skepticism about how safe this is has some support from some recent tests in Australia.  From Gizmodo:
Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione called a press conference today after the NSW Police Force concluded its experiments with 3D printable weapons, including The Liberator. The boffins over at the NSW Police bought themselves a 3D printer for $1700 and decided to test how easy it would be to build their own gun. They downloaded the blueprints for The Liberator from the internet and printed out two weapons to test fire. 
All in all, they printed the 15 parts required to assemble The Liberator in 27 hours and assembled it within 60 seconds with a firing pin fashioned out of a steel nail. The two guns were test fired into a block of resin designed to simulate human muscle, and the first bullet penetrated the resin block up to 17 centimetres. NSW Police Ballistics division confirm that it would be a fatal wound if pointed at someone. 
What’s interesting about the second device they tested, however, was the “catastrophic failure” of the weapon. Translation? It exploded. The plastic gave way to the brutal force of an exploding .38 caliber bullet and the barrel exploded. . . .
These guns have a history "to fall apart or degrade after repeated use." 

UPDATE: Printing can be done with metal, not just plastic.

UPDATE: Senator Schumer, Rep. Israel, and California state Senator Yee are all pushing gun control laws to deal with 3D printing.  Israel's proposal would license those who make ammunition magazines. According to the Boston Globe, Yee's proposal could include the registration of 3D printers.  Schumer's actions are discussed here.  More of a discussion is available here.

The Digital Journal has this proposal:
Solutions? Trying to censor the internet will be a failure, it is simply not possible for one regulator body to control such a vast network. However, the streets can be safer by imposing regulations on retail 3D printers. These include price fixings making the printers unaffordable for the average consumer, but as well requiring licensing and strict regulations for ownership.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Israel’s bill represents a form of gun control that the N.R.A. could actually support. Not because the Constitution remains silent on the question of printers, but because current manufacturers might not love the idea of new technology messing with their bottom line.
Other information by Ashley Feinberg is available here.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Rail Claimore said...

More valuable than a full 3D printed gun are 3d-printed gun parts: magazines, grips, accessory rails, etc... that's the promise of this technology.

5/23/2013 8:20 PM  
Blogger sysadmn said...

Andy Greenberg at Forbes has published columns covering the designer's testing of a printed gun:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/05/20/25-gun-created-with-cheap-3d-printer-fires-nine-shots-video/

I think that what many are overlooking is that any printed part can be used to create a mold for a cast part. Home metalcasting, while uncommon, is extremely low tech.

5/24/2013 1:49 PM  

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