Congressman calls for ban on 3D printed guns

Well, that was predictable: days after a 3D printed gun fired a few rounds, Rep Steve Israel has called for a ban on of Wiki Weapons. The congressman points out (correctly) that all-plastic 3D printed weapons would not be easy to spot using traditional methods, such as metal detectors.

However, what Rep Israel doesn't say is how he hopes to accomplish his goal. Firmware locks for 3D printers? A DMCA-like takedown regime for 3D shapefiles that can be used to generate plastic firearms (or parts of plastic firearms?). A mandate on 3D printer manufacturers to somehow magically make it impossible for their products to print out gun-parts?

Every one of those measures is a nonsense and worse: unworkable combinations of authoritarianism, censorship, and wishful thinking. Importantly, none of these would prevent people from manufacturing plastic guns. And all of these measures would grossly interfere with the lawful operation of 3D printers.

Rep. Steve Israel urges Congress to renew ‘Wiki Weapon’ ban


  1. Banning something does not actually require a plan for tracking down the banned thing. Simply prosecuting the offense where it is found is an option. It’s not as *effective* an option, but nevertheless, the various straw men here do not logically follow from the proposition.

    1.  True. The fact that we haven’t stamped out murder, and can’t, isn’t proof that we shouldn’t have laws against it. On the other hand, if you deliberately make laws that you know are un-enforcable and will be ignored, you breed a disrespect for the law. So there isn’t a clear answer.

      1.  ‘Be less fucking stupid’ being completely out of the question when it comes to elected representatives, that is…

      2. With regard to unenforceable laws, Machiavelli would agree and said as much in ‘the 10 discourses on Titus Livy’

        He also said that unenforceable laws make enforcers capricious which erodes trust in the state and invites corruption

        1. Thats an interesting thought, “unenforceable laws”. But doesn’t that depend on the individual? What might be enforceable on one person, might be totally unenforceable on another (person B being more stubborn than person A). Just something I thought when read your remark above. :-)

          I would agree that there are laws that are in effect or that could be put into effect that would erode trust in the state and invite corruption. But is the reason for that ‘enforceability’ or something more basic to human nature?

  2. Great, we can have the inane Glock “plastic gun” debate all over again, only this time with heavy handed DMCA-esque bullshit.

    Metal barrels, springs and bullets all show up just fine in metal detectors/X-ray.

    1.  egg-zackly. the recent “success story” that fired six times broke at a more-or-less noncritical spot, where the recoil buffer tube joins the receiver — not a high-stress part really, just turned out to be too high stress to be made of printed plastic.

      and nowhere remotely near the stresses you’d find in the chamber and barrel, which therefore clearly were made of metal or they’d never have survived the first shot — sure, you can 3d-print metal parts too, but an “all plastic gun” is a fantasy.

      (if the congresscritter wants to ban all-plastic weapons that won’t show up on metal detectors, he’ll have to troll WikiWeapons for push-dagger plans. those can be metal-free easily enough. they don’t need to be 3d-printed either, i could make one out of most random scraps of thermoplastic with nothing but hand tools…)

    2. The important part of the definition of a “banned assault rifle” is that it’s a rifle that looks really scary as well as holding a lot of bullets.  3D printing is one way to build the external scary-looking parts (even though it’s apparently not a very good way to build most of the bullet-handling parts.)

  3. omg, this guy is so uninformed. people aren’t printing guns, they’re basically printing stocks and accessories for guns.

    let me know when someone can print a chamber that can contain 40,000 psi.

    also, newsflash, ammunition casings (and the actual bullets) are still made of lead/brass/steel/zinc.

    good grief.

        1. Unlike the above examples, drunk driving actually happens.  Or do you know something the rest of us don’t?

          1. No, I was trying to point out that some laws are sensible and necessary (DD laws), and some less so.  Where does this one fall?  I’d say towards the later end, but I’m really not the most informed.  

            So why am I posting?  who the hell knows.

          2. lawlessness is true freedom. Its found in nature and has balanced the world for millions of years. You speak like your a farely intelligent individual but your naive about your true nature, perhaps your day will come when your dearly beloved laws come to devour you and all that’s left is the animal instinct to react and survive…

    1. people aren’t printing guns, they’re basically printing stocks and accessories for guns.

      No, WikiWeapon aims to print the “AR Lower receiver”, which, “in strictly legal terms” is the actual firearm, to which unregulated parts, such as barrels, stocks, magazines, etc may be attached. It’s the part with the serial number, it’s the part that’s subject to federal regulation, and so on. 

      Stocks and Accessories aren’t regulated– why go through the hassle of trying to print them?

        1. I guess the *obvious* solution would be the parts of the gun that actually make it a gun – i.e., the lock and chamber – to be declared the actual firearm.

          Admittedly though, I don’t know a whole lot about guns.

          1.  Think of it like a car…imagine the nightmare in paperwork it would take if parts like intake manifold and tires were considered a “car”.  If you spent all that money keeping track of every part of a gun you probably wouldn’t have enough to pay cops to do the actual leg work that it takes to put bad guys in prison.

          2. In This case it would make sense to register the barrel, it takes pretty nonstandard equipment to make a (safe) rifled barrel. Making a lower receiver only takes a 3d printer :)

          3. @ Swartzkip: Actually, it can be done with bench-top machine tools from Harbour Freight. (The barrels, that is.)

      1. But that gives away the game. If the problem is that printing receivers allows for unregulated gun ownership, then the story about metal detectors is clearly a red herring. And were does it say you have the right to keep and bear only easily detectable firearms anyway?

      2. Um no.  It is the upper receiver that the barrel attatches to.  What makes the lower receiver on an AR style weapon important is that is where the firing mech resides and determines its firing operation ie single shot, semi auto, auto or burst.  If you are going to comment, at least know what you are talking about

      3. There are perfectly valid reasons to print stocks and other accessories. One example that comes to mind would be to custom fit them for the user. Extreme customization is one of the things 3D printers are good at.

        That said, they’re also good at decentralizing manufacturing, so you do make a good point that the printers allow you to secretly make the controlled parts of the firearm. That, however, is already covered by existing laws dealing with making your own firearms (whatever tools are used) and any additional regulation specific to printers would likely require the technology-hostile measures detailed in the blog post.

        1. Could you link me to the existing laws regarding homemade firearms? I’m trying to arrange a meeting with Steve Israel (he’s my congressman) about this, so I need all the logic I can get my hands on.

      4. But, since you have to have metal parts to make the “gun” operable, it’s all a moot point.

        Gun control – proof that human stupidity will not die. 

      1. And the bullet is still metal, as is apparently the back end of the cartridge. There are very, very few materials that are dense enough to provide a usable bullet, all of them metals. 

          1. Density and momentum would play spoilsport, probably…

            Remember, a lead atom is an order of magnitude heavier than carbon. No matter how strong carbon can be made, it can’t get to be as heavy. In fact, that’s why we use it; light and strong…

          2. Sure, such bullets wouldn’t be as *effective* as ones made out of lead (which pales in comparison to depleted uranium, to be fair :D). But they might *work* nonetheless. Especially when coupled with smaller charges, they might be useful for true non-metal firearms. You know, as tools for sinister, future assassins; who download their weapons from the internet ;) 

        1. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but haven’t we already got 3-D printers for lead?  I used to play with them as a kid (I know, bad parenting).  I think I called them “molds” or some such.

    2.  But 3d printing was fantasy a few years ago, just because we can’t, doesn’t mean we wont and the discussions needs to happen.

        1. Nope, they can detect any electrically conductive material. The detector emits an alternating EM field  which will induce eddy currents in the conductive material which is in turn detected by the magnetometer coil.

          1.  Since human bodies are themselves made of electrically conductive material, how does a metal detector tell the difference?

    1. Under circumstances where some metal guns are illegal, only outlaws will have anything made of metal.

      No? Then your argument doesn’t follow either.

      1. Hi Mike, I wasn’t arguing. There was a certain tongue-in-cheekness in my comment that was perhaps lost, and explaining it sort of takes the fun out of it.

        But the corollary to metal guns would be not things made of metal, but the technology required to make metal guns…

      2. Unless my sarcasm meter is off, I think his comment was a hyperbolic characterization of typical gun control arguments.

  4. Despite strange rhetoric on both sides, all that is actually happening is that a Rep. is proposing the renewal of an existing law which prohibits guns with no metal in them.  It is not a new law and it has no connection to 3D printers, other than rhetoric from both sides.

    1. Still have yet to see a gun with no metal parts. Heck, I have yet to see a gun without MAJOR metal parts.

        1. When I was a kid we tried to bring a tourist souvenir – an amazonian-style blow gun – on a plane. We had to check it. The idea of us hijacking the plane with a 4 foot wood blowgun and poison darts kept us awake giggling for many a night.

        2. I’m gonna bust out two different definitions of gun as a reply:
          Actual federal defintion of what a gun is: No. Doesn’t count.

          My personal definition based on avoiding pedantic internet bullshit:  Still doesn’t fucking count. Call me back when someone gets killed by a spud gun in an act of violence and not some inane accident.

      1. A few hundred years ago, cannon were successfully made of hollowed-out trees, leather and even ice- though none of them were good for more than a few shots at a time, and I think the leather ones did have metal parts.

        1. As per my reply above: Call me back when someone has been killed by a firearm with a non-metal barrel within the statute of limitations of any legal system currently in place.

    2. Also, the existing law doesn’t include any of the totalitarian boogey-man stuff that Corey mentions in this post.

      1.  I seriously doubt this.  Remember that the NRA gets a lot of their money from individual members.  They are NOT in industry organization.  It is not about money — it is about the constitution.

        1. It’s totally about the money for the NRA. I was a huge supporter for a long time, especially for their fantastic training and education programs.

          Then I saw them lie their ass off for four years straight telling all their members that Obama was coming to confiscate all their guns (“please donate!!!”). 4+ years into the current administration and the lies keep coming and they come from the absolute top of the NRA leadership.  

          You’d think after crying wolf for 4+ years that the gun owning population would realize that they are being played by cynical vendors and manufacturers but there is no sign of that. 

          There will always be money to made shrieking that government is coming for your guns and from what I can tell the NRA will always be at the forefront, truth and honesty be dammed. 

  5. Could someone please upload STL files for 3D printed landmines? Can Semtex be extruded through a makerbot? (It probably could) Think of all the intricate shaped charge possibilities that 3D printing opens up…

  6. this idiot believes one will be able to build a complete firearm without any metal parts!ha!making your own firearms for personal use isn`t illegal anyway!just because he`s in a place that ignores the constitution doesn`t mean he should push it on others!

  7. What’s the use of 3D printed guns without real ammunition? As long as there isn’t a printer for gun powder, that’s the thing to regulate.

  8. When will we learn that only law abiding citizens follow laws. The people you are targeting to stop, are not the people who care about these laws. So, they are essentially pointless. We have plenty of laws already regarding guns. If you shoot someone with a gun, you should be arrested- plastic or not. 

    1. I think the bigger point is prevention.  Plastic guns would not be easily detectable.  In the case of shooting someone with a gun, people are probably concerned (reasonably) about prevention and not in making sure that whoever killed them is arrested.

    2. Probably the same reason that in most parts of the world owning any kind of gun is illegal: gun control is important if you want your citizens to be alive, and controlling undetectable, home made guns would be tricky to say the least.

  9. Another case of an idiot trying to regulate something they don’t fully understand. 

    re: “firearms will be brought on planes without anyone’s knowledge.”

    This already happens. Thanks for keeping us safe, TSA.

  10. ~.~ it was only a matter of time before some ignorant congress critter did something stupid…..

    you know if anyone really wanted to “print” a gun they would just use an industrial CNC machine and mill it with something useful. Like a billet of whatever it is they make actual guns out of these days. Hell you could probably use it to make the whole freaking gun……

    Certainly not an FDM or steriolithography system where you have all the failings of a gun. As the important (read: functional) parts of the gun still need to be made out of a material that the machines CAN NOT make (read: wouldn’t survive the pressures) and the FDM or Sterio part is going to fail after 2-4 shots.

    I guess I should just chock this up to “OMG a new technology that I don’t understand, I’m scared!”

    Better yet, let’s ban hardware stores because you could probably buy enough raw materials to cobble together a 1-2 shot gun…..

    …… hmmm maybe I should apply to congress, pay seems way too good and there are apparently no prerequisites for getting in.

    1.  Right on the Money!  The $1000 3d printers mostly print ABS or PLA . . I can not see that ever working as a barrel. 
      AND you can make your own gun in many different other ways all legal!

  11. “firearms will be brought on planes without anyone’s knowledge.”

    sounds like a nice premise for a science fiction story.

    1.  I always mention to people that there are no metal detectors at BART stations. Daily ridership is 350 thousand, go figure how many guns are riding around on BART trains at any given time, hundreds.

      1. Yeah, I am ambivalent about guns.  They seem like nasty dangerous things for the average person to be having, and yet we still let people drive.

        1. they seem all nasty and dangerous, yet dozens of millions of U.S. citizens own hundreds of millions of the things without (in the VAST majority of cases) causing any problems.

          true, when a problem DOES crop up it can be really nasty. but the same is true for a lot of other tools and items. it’s kindof heartening, to me, that the vast majority of people even in a culturally pretty damn violent society like the USA seem like they actually can be trusted with firearms — that the problems we end up with really are statistical exceptions and not the rule.

          1. That depends on your definition of “vast majority of cases”.

            Sorry to be the pinko euro commie here – but not only does the US have by far the highest murder rate in the industrial world, they also have *far* more guns per capita than any other country in the world. Almost twice as much as the runner-up – Yemen – in fact.
            I know, I know – correlation doesn’t equal causation. But that’s one heck of a correlation if you ask me.

          2. i don’t mind you being a pinko commie, but i wish you’d think a bit more about your statistics.

            if cross-country comparisons were as valid as all that, you’d not have to throw in the “industrial world” qualification. after all, why should that matter more than weapons ownership rates? conversely, if it DOES matter more than weapons ownership rates — what else might, too?

            yes, the USA is a violent place. always has been. its weapons laws have changed over the years, in both directions and sideways too, as has its weapons ownership rates; its (violent) crime rates fluctuate, too; but the two curves are not correlated. violence here is a regrettable cultural issue and a cause for high weapons ownership, not vice versa.

            yes, the USA has the highest civilian weapons ownership rates in the world. increasing, too, at that. but our murder rates are nowhere NEAR the world record — that would be Honduras, unless wikipedia’s lying to me again. yes, Honduras is a very different society from anything in the states — social factors overshadowing mere tools being pretty much my point.

          3. @openid-158798:disqus :
            No, of course guns per capita is not the most significant source of violent crime – that would be poverty, obviously. (Another area where the US is leading the industrial world, but let’s not dwell on that.)

            I’m arguing, however, that it *does* play a significant role. Sure you can kill people with a knife – but you can kill a whole lot more people with a Kalashnikov.
            Saying that weapon ownership plays no role (or a negligible one) is dangerously myopic; especially if coupled with that ludicrous right-wing argument of “if everybody had a gun, we’d all be safe.” (and no, I’m not saying that that’s an argument you make).

          4. No matter how you cut it the reason Americans are allowed guns isn’t because they can be trusted with them, it’s because they have a constitution that protects it.

          5. Yep, also, there are no quantifiable statistics on how many crimes have been PREVENTED because of the proliferation of guns. No gun grabber ever wants to hear that brought up.

      2. No matter how much people may have enjoyed The Taking of Pelham 123, it’s surprisingly difficult to hijack a subway train and do anything useful with it, like drive it to Cuba or crash it into a building.  If the system’s designed well, it’s also very difficult even to crash it into another train.

        Other than airports and jails, the only place most Americans frequently go that has metal detectors for security is courthouses, and that’s because there was a shooting in one a few years ago, leading to a recognition that many of the people who go there are really angry about something.

    2. I remember an Asimov short story about a lone guy who invents – and makes publicly available – a cheap and easy to make laser weapon that’s accurate and deadly enough to bring down airplanes and blow up tanks. Hilarity ensues. 

        1. After looking that one up: Nope, that’s a different one. I’m pretty sure I read that story in some collection of Asimov short stories about 20 years ago (when I was a wee lad, just discovering SF :D), but I can’t think of it’s name for the hell of it.

      1. Yeah, exactly. I remember someone earlier saying “You can kill someone with a knife but you can kill a whole lot more of them with an AK.” Really? Seems to me a couple guys with knives killed THOUSANDS not all that long ago :P

    1. Except no they’re not.  A patient person can construct an AR-15 lower that is superior in every way to what wikiweapons is doing with $100 worth of unregulated parts and an $80 harbor freight drill press.  Hobbyists have been making their own guns forever and it hasn’t really had much of an effect on the larger world. 

      1. I gotta tell you guys. I’m in West Virginia and we are swimming in an OCEAN of guns and ammo. Gun violence is a cultural problem. If guns were a problem, WV would be the most violent place on earth. Not even close to survivable. Turns out we have the lowest violent crime rate in the country.

        1. I have a feeling there’s something to this.
          People who want guns should know how to use them once they obtain them and should be responsible with them.
          But people who don’t use guns but want guns available as a matter of principle would not have a responsible culture of gun ownership.

          I wonder if there’s a way to track the correlation between gun usage such as for hunting or sports related activities, registered gun ownership, unregistered gun ownership statistics and violent crime?
          Or am I over thinking this?

  12. Notice that this description of an imbecilic statement by a congressman omits any mention of what political party he is affiliated with.

    Having observed many Boing Boing political posts over the past year, I was able to correctly determine from that omission whether he was a Republican or a Democrat.

    1. You may be right about this, it’s on Boing Boing after all, but this is a bad test case for you.

      You don’t need to know it’s BB to guess he’s a Dem. It’s a bill about a banning purported device that will theoretically move matter from point A to point B with lethal results. When was the last time anyone who’s name was followed by R got behind something like that?

      Your case will be much better served by waiting until a post on intellectual property omits the D. Give it time. It’s going to happen.

  13. To my understanding, obtaining _any_ kind of handgun is pretty legal in most of the USA, so why all this commotion?

          1. Well, to use a somewhat-hackneyed comparison, it’s like another inherently dangerous implement – a car.  

            Unless you’re adjudicated to be too dangerous to drive, or aren’t of age, you can get a license and operate a motor vehicle.  

            And in point of fact, there is also a criminal background check involved in a gun purchase.  Every gun sold at retail, at least. 

          2. But a car is a mode of transport, and a handgun is an instrument of death – it’s a bit apples and pairs. A car can kill a person if it’s operated incorrectly, a gun kills someone if it’s operated correctly.

            Besides do you need a license to own a gun in the US? Or is it dependent on state? TV has taught me that there’s just some kind of holding period (and on occasion, a gun show out back).

          3. It’s a state-by-state thing.

            – Most states require a permit to carry a concealed firearm (only Illinois and DC outlaw it altogether AFAICT).

            – Most of the states who permit concealed carry, however, also have a “shall-issue” clause in their laws, requiring the issuance of a carry permit unless there’s a good reason not to.

            – A majority (27 by my count) do NOT require a permit to carry a firearm openly, however.

            – Twelve more allow open-carry with licensing/restrictions.

            – Seven states (including Texas, if you can believe it) basically outlaw openly carrying firearms.  

            – Seven states by my count require a permit to purchase handguns specifically, with varying restrictions.

            – Six more require a permit to purchase ANY kind of firearm.  

  14. Somewhat off topic but i noticed that entirely ceramic knives were for sale at the local 99cent store. TIME TO PANIC?????

  15. The real problem is, this is just the first salvo in the legislative war about 3D printers, a technology that risks to be even more disruptive than the Internet. 

    I can easily see a future where 3D printers need a license to be owned and operated, in a way that will probably favour established players in the manufacturing business. Like with internet censorship and copyright infringement, this sort of regulation requires a bogeyman, a casus belli that will make it look “reasonable” to curtail personal freedoms in the name of social responsibility. “Plastic weapons” are quite good, in this sense: in England, we already had a problem with legal gun “replicas” being modified and used by gangsters (until they were banned), so the logical and emotional step from there to a ban on any “plastic weapon” (whether real or imagined) looks quite short from here.

    I think Cory can see this coming, and is probably over-reacting out of this fear, which is entirely legitimate IMHO.

  16. Guns have a lot of drawbacks as weapons, anyway. Heavy, easily detected metal parts. Make lots of noise, causing the user to be easily located. Coat the user with nitrate residues for later identification. They do have excellent range and stopping power, but depending on context those things may not be needed. I would think that Makers could come up with better weapons in due time… RC drones with carfentanil darts, or something.

    1. Small Drones with synthetic optical radar are actually what scares me the most.  The general public has nothing really to fear from such things, because most of us are low value, no cares enough to do anything to us. But the not so general public is likely to lose their shit when other members of the not so general public start going after each other with small drones.

  17. With our current laws if you can legally own a gun, you can legally manufacture one for yourself, the only thing that requires permission is manufacture for resale. I have made guns, I have friends who have made them, and guess what? We didn’t use 3d printers. We used the ancient mystical technology known as the CNC mill.

  18. Do you also think laws about the negligent use of automobiles are void because they can only be enforced after the fact? Perhaps murder should not be a crime, because it’s impossible to stop it from happening? 

    It might not be possible to stop someone from printing a gun, any more than it’s possible to stop someone from driving a car without a license; but the latter is still a crime, and the former can be too if that’s what the legislature decides.In this particular case, because gun ownership laws vary wildly from state to state, gun manufacture rules seem like they should also be issued on the state level, but in general, the government certainly has the right to legislate and the duty to protect the people from harm. You can argue about whether this is a proper exercise of that duty, but it’s not an insane notion to regulate the  manufacture of weapons.

  19. The level of stupid in this bill would defy belief if it were coming from any organization other than the US congress.  The actual ban they want to resurrect wouldn’t even outlaw the 3d-printed project that started this particular scare.  It only bans guns that contain no metal parts, which *all* guns do and will continue to do for the foreseeable future.  There is no known technology – not even in the plausible-science-fiction realm – that could 3d-print an *entire* gun from non-metallic parts. 3D printing aside, I’m not sure anybody has ever managed to make a “plastic” gun using any manufacturing process. There was all sorts of speculation about ceramic chambers and barrels, but I’m pretty sure it was never actually accomplished.

    So some guy prints a receiver that sort-of works for half a dozen shots before breaking.  Scary!  Lets make a big deal about renewing a ban on completely unrelated guns that don’t exist!

  20. As others have touched on:

    Legal specifics/restrictions on ‘printed guns’ will be drafted when the gun manufacturing corporations get worried about the tech cutting into their bottom line.

    And, of course, any laws will be drafted by the gun corporation lawyers, for the interest of gun corporations, but passed around by some politician like it’s ‘by the people, for the people’

    I think what’ll be hilarious will be when, in the near future, GOP’ers claim their opposition to ‘printed guns’ proves they’re willing to discuss and implement ‘gun laws’ – When, really, their concern is merely to help their corporate overlords.

  21. I think it bodes saying that these assclowns are worried about this issue while we have a budget crisis and bad economy to deal with.

    To be honest, in my book, these are just as equally covered by the second amendment as traditional firearms… and I’m a liberal gun control advocate. There’s really no excuse for outlawing them, constitutionally. Go NRA!

    1. Bullets are simple enough to be molded; no need for 3D printing. As other people have commented, the real limitation for bullets is that plastic isn’t heavy enough, though riot police do occasionally kill people with rubber or plastic bullets.

  22. Am I the only one here with a lathe and milling machine in his basement?  The ability to make firearms at home is a ship that’s sailed long ago.  The only thing that keeps most criminals from doing it, is, to be blunt…their ignorance and stupidity.

  23. The FP-45 Liberator is a gun specifically designed to be manufacturable from easily gotten parts behind enemy lines during WWII. Home-made guns have a long history and provenance. Kinda late to worry about that shit now.

  24. Such a ban does not require a 3D printer to be unable to print a gun/gun parts; this is nigh impossible (see ‘the halting problem’ for why. There’s no software system that could ever tell with certainty. DRM isn’t the way to go anyways).

    Instead, ban the possession/sale/manufacture of such guns/parts (or, if you want to go the extra mile, the files for the same). If you are searched and are found in possession of one, standard laws apply. This turns it into an entirely non-computer problem— just standard police work.

    In short: Don’t legislate the printer; legislate the human. If lawmakers attempt to do otherwise, they’re being exceedingly shortsighted— however, the idea of a printed gun-parts ban is not something that requires a knee-jerk rejection.

  25. ..And after reading the linked article, I’m realizing this entire article and comment thread is totally missing the point.

    Corey, you’re a brilliant guy, and undoubtedly there will be calls to enact dictatorial laws in an attempt to hold back 3-D printing and the scary future.  But is this one of those?  Or this just some random Representative from New York using a random youtube video to renew a (mostly) silly ban on plastic guns.  The relevant CRS summary is here, for all interested:

    Now this may be a crushing blow to 3-D, amateur DIY marksmen and gun-enthusiasts (which is a negative, although I will be able to get up tomorrow despite their displeasure), but this doesn’t really touch on 3-D printing except where it touches on making guns.  Companies won’t have to change their printers; the law only applies to the manufacture of these guns and their parts.   No online communities will be banned (although BoingBoing will burst into dramaflame) as the law says *nothing* about plans or digital schematics.  

    Keep calm and carry on everyone.

  26. “The congressman points out (correctly) that all-plastic 3D printed weapons would not be easy to spot using traditional methods, such as metal detectors”

    A working all-plastic 3D printed gun? Yeah, that might be a problem in a few decades…

  27. We’re only a few years away from viable caseless ammunition.  As for springs and other metal fiddly bits, these are required primarily to shoot multiple rounds.  A small 3D printed one or two shot firearm using caseless ammunition is just around the corner. What’s that film where Malkovich’s character uses a plastic gun?

    1.  Caseless ammunition puts an incredible structural and more importantly thermal load on the firearm, add in the pressure issues above and I would say that this is still highly unlikely.  Movies aren’t the best source of engineering data.

  28. He’s just grandstanding, an early adopter.

    As the tech advances, it is going to be a problem.  I’m sure all of this desire to print weapons will result in formidable high-velocity small projectile launchers of one dangerous sort or another.  Who’s to say launch mechanisms won’t be developed that don’t use explosives?  That’s tech change, and we’re in the infancy of localised manufacturing.The issue will be that it will become even simpler to weapon-up and attack the jocks at school.As for DRM – those cards have been played, and the DRM evasion / non-DRM movement is blossoming.  If the desire to get weaponry is so powerful, the DRM will be defeated or simply circumvented.  With music and media, it only still exists because people don’t really care enough.
    I’m no engineer, but I’m sure with two weeks research and some appropriate inexpensive tools, I could create a safe, close-range accurate firearm in the next six months.  Or an effective taser-alike.

  29. There is a reason that in many states, black powder guns can be bought with little or no paperwork. That reason is that thugs don’t dick around with black powder. It’s safe to say, they’re not going to dick around with 3-D printers, plastic formulation, engineering, math, trial runs, and software. Especially not when actual, reliable, mass-produced weaponry is widely available to anyone thinking of doing something terrible. The cartels down in Mexico are a good example. They arm themselves just fine without benefit of 3-D printing. My point is, the marginally functional guns in this article should be considered more like curios, similar to black powder weapons.

    1. But Gavin, technology doesn’t stop from progressing. It’s going to become easier and easier and easier to print 3D objects as the technology advances. Right now it’s in it’s infancy and this is ALREADY an issue. It’s only going to get worse.

  30. “The congressman points out (correctly) that all-plastic 3D printed weapons would not be easy to spot using traditional methods, such as metal detectors.”

    It doesn’t matter if the gun is entirely plastic or not. The bullets are still made of metal.

  31. The bullets are metal, the barrel is metal and, if you actually read the test as opposed to Representative Moron’s attempt to use this as a springboard to promote himself by sponsoring worthless authoritarian legislation, MANY of the other parts are still metal.  The only plastic part in the recent test was the lower receiver…everything else was completely normal and the weapon was fully detectable by all traditional methods.

    Not to mention that the test showed severe reliability problems….

    ….not to mention the overwhelming evidence that gun control legislation does nothing to prevent violence…

    You can also legally construct your own metal weapons as well for less than a grand…not to give this idiot any more ideas.

  32. It’s quite easy to find suitable replacement material for metal barrels, it’s called ceramic.  I’ve seen single shot ceramic tubes with plastic slugs that would be fatal at close range.  Then again, any sharp object at close range is a deadly weapon.

  33. But hey, if you’ve got a metal shop…I think I could make a functioning (for one or two shots at least) gun almost entirely out of wood. This is exactly the kind of “information wants to be free” issue that we should stand up for. Make a gun for yourself for lawful use, fine. Sell them out of your trunk no questions asked…now there’s a problem that law enforcement should be concerned with.

  34. Ever try to put currency on your scanner and scan it? It doesn’t work. (Same thing if you try to edit an image of money in Photoshop.)

    Preventing 3D printers from printing specific parts could be done in the same way. The software just doesn’t allow you to do it.

    1. Not true at all.  Commercial scanners and printers can prevent you from copying currency because they’re required to include functions that recognize easily-recognized markings on the currency.  Recognizing things that could potentially be used as a gun is a much harder problem, and 3-D printers are generally controlled by user-programmable computers.

  35. Well…all this is going to do is teach geeks the world over you can print weaponry with this tech. Simple guns are just the beginning…with a little “sci-fi” imagination and some degrees from MIT or Stanford-who knows what might be available from your friendly neighborhood hood.

    Of course, passing this law has other more important implications-new bloated budgets for the impossible task of enforcement. The true collateral damage? Our streets and wallets.

    Puh-leezzz…don’t act surprised after the last decade.

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