Jan 25, 2016 | By Alec
Surely no topic in the 3D printing community is more controversial than that of 3D printed guns. That debate has also been spilling out into wider society and the US political realm, where it has become a full-fledged element of the gun rights debate. Defense Distributed – the Texas-based initiative by Cody Wilson who is pioneering free digital designs for 3D printed guns – is currently locked in a legal battle with the US government on the right to distribute his designs online. The US government, of course, is especially worried about what happens when these untraceable guns end up in the wrong hands and are now being backed by specialists on the other side of the Atlantic. Antiterrorist experts from the UK are now arguing that digital 3D printed gun designs would greatly help ISIS sympathizers to commit terror attacks.
This argument was more often heard over the last few years, though is now more relevant in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino a few weeks ago. It adds a new chapter to the 3D printed gun debate, which is everything but over. Back in 2013, Defense Distributed was ordered to remove their popular 3D printable gun designs (more than 100,000 downloads) from their website by the US State Department. Though they initially complied, Wilson later received legal backing from Second Amendment activists to sue the State Department and some of its officials, arguing that the 3D printable designs are a form of free speech that cannot be censored.
This issue is still ongoing, but in the meantime Defense Distributed has not been doing nothing. They are working on a new release for a 3D printed automatic gun, a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that is expected to be published online in April 2016. The 27-year-old said of his new project: “I promise you the reason you haven’t seen this yet is because it has been artificially delayed. I would have demonstrated this for you if I was allowed to,” he told the British newspaper The Mirror. “I am fighting my fight with the government but we have a whole new range of things.” When asked to clarify if this meant a new 3D printed machine gun was forthcoming, he confirmed this.
Wilson further added that all you need is a 3D printer and a few hardware store components – such as a firing pin – to use them. “You can’t 3D print a good slug or a firing pin yet because the material is not dense enough. So we just said use commonly available things,” he said. The bullets themselves can be made from plastic, though they would need to be packed with a primer, smokeless gunpowder and improvised shrapnel items.
But the British tabloid, which is known for its left-wing sympathies, has now questioned what this release could do for the violent methods of ISIS – who would obviously greatly benefit from having almost completely undetectable guns that cost less than £100 ($120) to make. Though the 3D printer itself would obviously be a big investment as well, a serious security risk is created by these 3D printed guns, they argue. When asked if he cared about the use of his gun designs in terrorist attacks, Wilson responded negatively. “Not really. There are all kinds of books in a library about how to build a bomb. You just have to have a certain commitment to the free exchange of ideas,” he argues.
This has been strongly condemned by British counterterrorist experts. Former intelligence officer Hamish de Bretton Gordon was quoted as saying that Wilson’s efforts were making the jobs of terrorists so much easier. “Particularly in the UK where security services are putting in so much effort to prevent an attack by one of IS’s ‘clean skins’,” he said. “The person who is releasing this is completely irresponsible. We can only hope the authorities in the US are going to deal with this individual. It’s absolutely crazy.” He further added that such a release would force the government to start tracking 3D printer sales.
This sentiment has been repeated by other specialists and politicians. “This is a bizarre and dangerous proposal. A plastic machine gun could go unnoticed by airport security, putting the travelling public at risk of terrorist attack,” said Shadow Police Minister Jack Dromey. Though guns – and particularly automatic weapons – are very difficult to obtain in Britain, the UK National Ballistics Intelligence Service (Nabis) has said that this could change with the release of 3D printed gun designs. Though no 3D printed guns have been found in the UK so far, they did reveal that they are testing them themselves.
Though British fears will doubtlessly matter little in a US legal battle on free speech and the second amendment, it does highlight another question: do 3D printed guns increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks?
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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seriously politicians, you aren't impressing us wrote at 1/26/2016 9:27:04 PM:
3D printers a threat? What about CNC milling machines? You can buy a block of performance plastic, say glass filled PE or PPO, and then mill out a much more accurate and stronger part. I'd think once a part is CAM'd up, you'd get usable parts quicker than a 3D printer, given their false starts, slicer tuning, failed prints etc. So, who's going to track all the milling machines out there? Plus you can mill real parts from aluminum or other materials. Lathes? everyone knows how to make a ballpoint pen gun. Single shot, but easily concealed, reloadable and durable enough for hundreds of shots. All guns are made on machines. Those machines are publically available for any budget, and ISIS has money BTW. They could have a Stratasys and avoid all the cheap stuff. they could buy a Makino and make precision plastic parts. They're printing passports on the real machinery, which ain't cheap. And let's not forget, no one needs Cody Wilson to release anything. He is not the gatekeeper for design. He likes to antagonize politicians, which is why we all think he's a pioneer, but many before him have had fun antagonizing politicians.
LWRC Patriot wrote at 1/26/2016 9:18:28 PM:
ISIS is already getting military grade weapons from the U.S. government so they won't be messing this this kind of hassle anytime soon. Besides, the bolt carrier is one of the most complex piece on the AR-15 and only a few companies have the capability to make them so even if ISIS could 3D print the lower receiver, without the bolt carrier group, it would be a non-functioning weapon.
Tenche Cox wrote at 1/26/2016 6:55:52 PM:
"3D printed automatic gun, a AR-15 semi-automatic'" Pick one. Metal guns were shown to easily pass through the x-ray machines at airports undetected, so plastic isn't going to decrease detection rates. On top of that, it's widely reported that ISIS' weapons are supplied by the US government, only they call them "moderate rebels" when they do and "radical extremists" when they want to justify totalitarianism. Finally, all of these shootings such as San Bernadino and in Paris occurred in places that restricted law abiding citizens' right to bear arms. If everyone was able to skirt detection by victim disarmament measures, they would be better able to stop ISIS. If you want to stop ISIS then demand that extremists not be supplied with weapons while the public is being disarmed. Demand the public be allowed to arm themselves to the teeth even if they have to use cheap plastic guns to fight the government backed extremists. The only "moderate rebels" that have ever opposed radical Islam are called Shaolin Buddhist monks. They believe in karma and would more likely violently defend against such extremists without being radicalized into violent extremists themselves.
Tenche Cox wrote at 1/26/2016 6:48:13 PM:
"3D printed automatic gun, a AR-15 semi-automatic'" Which is it, auto, or semi-auto? The fact is that existing metal guns have been demonstrated to pass through the "backscatter" x-ray machines at airports undetected, so a plastic gun isn't going to avoid detection any more than that. Not only that, a clerical error revealed the TSA knows that there is no serious threat that warrants any of their ineffective security theatrics. On top of that, it's been in the media for some time that ISIS gets weapons from the US government, only they call them "moderate rebels" when they do and radical extremists when they want to justify totalitarianism. Finally, every one of these shootings such as San Bernadino and in Paris occurred in places that restricted law abiding citizens' right to bear arms. If everyone was armed, and able to skirt detection by victim disarmament measures, they would be better able to stop ISIS. If you want to stop ISIS then demand that extremists not be supplied with weapons by governments while the public is being disarmed by them. Demand the public be allowed to arm themselves to the teeth even if they have to use cheap plastic guns to fight the million dollar armaments the government is openly giving to terrorists. FYI: The only "moderate rebels" that have ever opposed radical Islam are called Shaolin Buddhist monks. They believe in karma and would more likely violently defend against such extremists without being radicalized into violent extremists themselves.
AnotherGuy wrote at 1/25/2016 5:12:18 PM:
This is so overblown! A legal “gun” in the U.S. is only the lower receiver, all the rest can be acquired without tracking and those parts are almost all made out of metal. So much for being “almost undetectable”. Even those 3D printed guns still use metal ammo, which can be picked up. More dangerous are the designs I found from some bloke in the UK who showed how to get common materials from a plumbing supply store, and from them make a machine gun complete with ammo. That would be cheaper, quicker and harder to stop than 3D printing one of Cody’s designs and buying all the other parts. That’s just one option. Like ThatGuy wrote above, smuggling is even easier. By getting all excited about 3D printing guns, politicians and journalists are getting all excited about the technology, but showing their ignorance of firearms. 3D printing has not made possible what was not possible before. The answer is not to disarm the general public, as has been done in much of Europe and Australia, which leaves the public defenseless against terrorism and even common crime, rather encourage as many responsible citizens as possible to get armed so they can “be their brothers’ keepers”.
TheOtherGuy wrote at 1/25/2016 4:13:57 PM:
Listen to ThatGuy
Julio wrote at 1/25/2016 3:58:14 PM:
"That guy", you are ok on probability but not possibility. While 3d printed guns have low probability of being deployed, it's still possible. Ask the US how probable was the attack to the twin towers. Public safety has to consider every posibility, even when not very probable, as you say. Even though, I would argue your point of view. Are you sure it's easier to smuggle a gun than making it at your own garage?. Remember, only one shot is needed to kill someone. They don't need guns that live longer than them. I really feel sorry for Cody Wilson. If something happens with his guns, he'll share some responsability.
ThatGuy wrote at 1/25/2016 1:57:49 PM:
Hum, barrels? The lower on an AR rifle has very little stress put on it. The upper receiver where the barrel is attached is much more important. A firing pin is also simple compared to the 'bolt carrier group' which is the reciprocating part of the gun that feeds, holds during firing and ejects the spent casing. All of these things have been made on commercial CNC machines for years. Sten guns from WWII were designed to be made on crude machines its minimal skill- not beyond most garage hackers. As the terrorist showed in Paris, it is far easier to just smuggle the guns into Europe and hide them in mosques. Stop hunting for unicorns when their are plenty of horses out there that will get us first.