3D Guns Are a Thing?

Two weeks ago, 3D printable guns were low on my expanding list of things to worry about in these fraught times. In fact, it wasn’t on the list at all. I didn’t even know 3D guns were a thing. The only thing I’ve printed on a 3D printer is a Pokemon figure that the local library gave my kids as a gift. But now, 3D guns threaten to keep me up at night. What the heck is going on? 

As I’ve researched the issue I understand more of the complexity of the situation. A gun rights group wanted to publish the blueprints for 3D handguns that are untraceable, largely undetectable by metal detectors and that have the capability of firing one shot. However, the government stopped them. Apparently, government officials then realized they had more than a Second Amendment issue on their hands. They had a First Amendment issue, too. 

The government caved when it realized publishing the plans was a free speech case and they’d probably lose so they gave the group the right to publish the plans. And lots happened since then including a judge from Seattle putting a temporary stop to the publishing but some of the blueprints, including those for assault-style weapons, are already online. The bullet has already left the weapon, if you will. 

Ok, now that we’ve gotten the exposition out of the way, let’s address a few things. 

First, how big a deal is this? Experts are conflicted. Most agree that, in theory at least, 3D guns could be a major problem. They are guns, after all, and they are printed at home without a serial number, making them untraceable in the event of a crime or theft. However, according to an article in USA Today, one owner of a 3D printing business does not think the weapons are viable. (LINK: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/08/01/3-d-guns-serious-threat-u-s-communities/883626002/)

From the article: “It’s not feasible to print a 100% 3D-printed gun, because the plastic that is being printed that is used here is not strong enough to withstand a barrel or the explosion from a bullet,” said Michael Flynn, who runs a year-old 3D printing business in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Still, the fact that the guns could potentially be available to convicted felons, the mentally ill or children, is absolutely terrifying and cause for some sort of action, in my opinion. 

Second, how likely is it that a bad guy has access to the plans and a 3D printer and can carry this bulky weapon somewhere to carry out a crime/shooting? 3D printers are extremely expensive — costing tens of thousands of dollars. However, if we’ve learned one thing from technological advances, it’s that the cost of technology decreases over time as advancements are made and newer techniques and products are made and the manufacturing becomes more streamlined. So, for now, the cost of 3D printers might be prohibitive but what about in 10 years, or 20? Also, the common crook might not be able to procure a 3D gun but large terrorist or criminal organization with more resources might have more access to them. That’s not a good thing. 

Third, how much do I need to be worried about this? Losing one life to gun violence Is too many and in my community we are still very much dealing with the grief from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February that killed 17 people, including 14 children. People here are working to put into place common sense gun laws, not see blueprints for guns openly shared online for anyone to use. Ultimately I cannot worry about this too much because there’s not much I can do about it today. What I can do is make sure that I vote for candidates with common sense gun legislation in their agendas and educate myself and those around me about these weapons. 

Some gun rights advocates believe that if a law-abiding citizen wants to print a gun at home to use for self-defense, they should have that right. I see their point. We do have a Second Amendment for a reason. However, what is the greater priority — someone using the technology to print a gun that they will probably never have to use or protecting countless innocent people from a madman with a 3D gun who is now emboldened and unencumbered by laws and regulations to carry out violence and carnage on a mass scale. For me, it’s not even close. We have a duty to protect people and we also have a system in place to regulate guns. 3D printable guns flies in the face of that system. 

Photo by pennstatenews on Trendhype / CC BY-NC-ND


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Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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