July 12, 2015 | By Kira

A recent announcement by the US State Department has triggered a fresh wave of controversy surrounding 3D printed guns, online file sharing and the right to free speech, inciting maker and gun activist Peter Alaric DeSimone to 3D print and share the files for a .40 caliber poison dart airgun.

The controversy truly began to heat up back in June, when the State Department, backed by President Obama, issued a new decree prohibiting the sharing of any firearms related technical data or schematics on the internet, including sketches, drawings, diagrams and even dimensions. From the government’s perspective, the proposal is a way to extend ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) while protecting what kind of technology and information can be exported out of the US. For gun activists, however, the new decree is seen as either a ‘blatant’ violation of he first amendment, the second amendment, or both.

In response to the ban, DeSimone posted a straightforward and very strongly worded—if not also darkly humourous—video to YouTube, in which he not only denounces the decree, but also reveals his very own, completely legal, schematics for a 3D printed air gun. “If Mr. Obama had not attempted to stifle free speech in this way, I probably would have simply worked on another, more innocuous project. But as it is, I felt compelled to act,” wrote DeSimone of his ‘inspiration’ for the project. “This gesture of protest further proves the obvious futility of attempting to regulate speech and ban simple mechanical objects; both of which are very un-American ideas.”

Rather than join the debate on whether the decree truly is a violation of the first amendement, DeSimone decided to take a more ‘hands-on’ stance and physically push the limits of the law by legally sharing the designs for a 3D printed weapon . As it turns out, airguns are not covered in the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, and therefore are specifically exempt from all firearms regulations. By exposing this loophole, DeSimone hopes that he can also expose the very ‘un-Americanness’ of the decree. “In truth, the gun was designed for indoor target practice, but its ability to slip through metal detectors and fire poison darts makes the story more inflammatory, so I’m touting these virtues primarily to sensationalize it.”

The airgun he designed is a pneumatic piston powered by two sets of rubber bands and can shoot .40 caliber blow gun darts, which can also be dipped into poison for an added element of danger—although DeSimone warns that he himself isn’t sure about the legality of poisoning darts, and that doing so can be as hazardous for the shooter as it is for the target. Additional features include the ability to pass through metal detectors unnoticed, and picatinny rails for mounting accessories such as weapon lights and even a red-dot sight. Despite being made primarily as a political statement, DeSimone clearly but a lot of thought into the design and functionality of his creation.

The pistol was 3D printed on a LulzBot Taz 4 with ABS filament, however nearly any 3D printer capable of printing objects 200mm would work.  The frame, piston, trigger, trigger guard and rails were 3D printed, while the blowgun barrel and rubber bands were assembled afterwards. All in all, DeSimone says that it took him about 8.5 hours to 3D print the frame, and a total of 12-13 hours to print and assemble the entire gun.

DeSimone’s STL files are available in full detail on his website, and include extensive and important bits of information, such as the fact that there is no safety mechanism whatsoever on the gun, and that if you don’t have enough trigger reset bands, the gun may fire spontaneously without the trigger being pulled. “Be advised that this can happen, so keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction at all times,” he writes. He also urges readers to access the digital files on his website “before Obama bans them.”

Whether you see DeSimone’s project as a political statement, a particularly dark joke, or a skillful and practical 3D design project to be used strictly for indoor target practice, there is no mistaking his desire to stir up controversy and have a sardonic laugh at the same time. On the one hand, it’s easy to understand that as a designer and gun advocate, he would want to send a powerful message back to the people and to his government. On the other hand couldn’t a designer with his level of skill, craftsmanship and dedication focus his energy in a more positive manner, and use 3D printing technology to improve the world, rather than smugly criticize it?

Peter Alaric DeSimone with his 3D printed airgun

The end of DeSimone’s ‘manifesto,’ if it could be called that, includes perhaps the most explanatory, yet provocative justification for his actions: “I want everyone to know that President Obama summoned this weapon into existence through his unconstitutional and un-American actions. Long live the Constitution, and long live the United States of America.” Those are particularly strong words from a straight-shooting advocate, and whether Obama or any member of his administration will respond has yet to be seen. Whichever side of the debate you are on, we can say one thing for sure: regardless of any State Department laws, and for better or for worse, as long as enterprising makers such as DeSimone are out there, 3D printed weapons are here, and here to stay.


Posted in 3D Printer Applications



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Jeff wrote at 7/23/2015 6:02:21 PM:

I second what Concerned said.

Concerned wrote at 7/12/2015 5:34:04 AM:

Kira, you seem to have missed a very crucial part of social studies and American History. Your criticism of DeSimone is misplaced. All men have both good and evil in their hearts. The founding fathers knew this, and so set up a government structured with checks and balances so no one man or minority group could overtake the country and rule as a tyrant. In an ideal world, government would not be necessary because men would be saints and would not be subject to the temptation to rule their peers. Government is a necessary only because men are not saints and likely never will be. What we have today is a government that has unchained itself from those checks and balances. It is dictating to the American people what they can and cannot do or say. DeSimone has an explicitly protected right to produce that dart gun. The State department has no declared power to legislate anything (because the checks and balances structure denies them that power). Yet, they seem to have no problem undermining the Constitution by weighing in on this issue. I'll go further. The government is out of control precisely because ignorant people like yourself don't understand this, and you continue to vote for politicians who love that you don't know any better. They continue to accrue power, granted to them by people like you, in violation of every law, principle, and philosophy the USA is based on. DeSimone has the right. The State Department does not. You're criticizing the wrong side.

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