While most 3D printers are still too expensive for home use, there are a variety of online options for ordering 3D printed objects and for finding the equivalent of 3D blueprints for a variety of objects. One of those objects happens to be a plastic gun called the “Liberator”. That printed gun was recently successfully fired without the plastic body breaking.
The BBC aired a piece yesterday showing the plastic printed gun being fired. A similar video can be found on YouTube. The plans for the Liberator can be downloaded for printing. It consists of 15 plastic pieces and a nail used as a firing pin. The parts can easily be transported through metal detectors without setting off any alarms. The barrel can be switched out so that different barrels can shoot different calibers of ammunition. While most people would have to use a site such as Shapeways, Quickparts, or Sculpteo to actually print the gun, there are a variety of open source plans that can be downloaded to make your own 3D printer.
The “Liberator” download site actually has a warning that the gun could be considered a violation of the “AOW (Any Other Weapons) provision of the National Firearms Act” because of its perfectly smooth barrel. While there will be some who will follow through and register any printed version of this weapon as required, the fear is that these guns will be printed and used illegally, in which case there won’t be any registration.
According to Forbes it is this later fear that has sparked New York Senator Charles Schumer to call for legislation to ban 3D printed plastic guns like the Liberator. According to The Washington Post Shapeways issued a statement that it is policing what is printed using its site to make sure that 3D guns are not produced using their site. Indiegogo kicked a crowdfunding attempt for the weapon off of its site.
While these websites have tried to distance themselves from 3D printed guns, there is the question of whether they should have to be the ones doing the monitoring to prevent guns like this from being printed. Gun manufacturers don’t have to police who buys there guns why should 3d printing companies have to police who is using their services to print guns? How can they prevent someone from using different services to produce individual pieces if the entire blueprint isn’t used at any one place?
That is going to be the one of many questions that surround this new use of a new technology. Once 3D printers become commonplace, how will law enforcement be able to monitor the production of such guns? As mentioned above there are already DIY plans for making the printers used to make the guns. How do you stop that? Should you be stopping that?
Defense Distributed, the organization behind the Liberator, would answer that last question with a resounding “NO”. The organization set out to create a 3D printed gun to give more people access to weapons as a part of our Second Amendment right to “bear arms”. In this age of bombings, school shootings, and the highest homicide rates in the world, do we really want easy access to what are untraceable guns?
Three D printed guns add a whole new twist to the ongoing debate on gun control? What are your views?
Above photographs from Defense Distributed.