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Monday, March 18, 2013

Untraceable, metal-detector-proof guns on demand — who thought this was a good idea again?


Technophiles have been playing around with 3D printing for years, but mostly just to make things like little statues or plastic trinkets. Now, however, it’s possible to print items with the potential to leave more of an impact.

Items like guns, for example.

Such is the goal of Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed, a company that makes gun parts using 3D printers and publishes the designs online for anyone to download. Now, co-founder Cody Wilson said he has received a federal license to distribute and sell firearms. And last week Wilson also announced he’s trying to raise $100,000 to launch a new search engine called Defcad, which would let people share 3D printing blueprints for things like gun parts.

It’s a thorny subject considering the current debate over gun control in the aftermath of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Conn., in which 26 people—20 of them children 7 years old and younger—were murdered.

Yet at SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, Wilson shared Defense Distributed’s vision for the future—one in which anyone can easily access the technology to print gun parts themselves, so that eventually the 3D printing of firearms will become so advanced and widespread that it will make gun control laws meaningless.

Well no, not “meaningless.” Just because a law’s easy to break doesn’t mean no one is punished for breaking it. Ask anyone who’s ever got a DUI. Getting behind the wheel when you’re hammered is the easiest thing in the world. In fact, there are a bunch of easy to commit crimes, from jaywalking to opportunistic murder — oddly, this hasn’t rendered the laws against these crimes “meaningless.” You could use that printer to print out any number of illegal items, but that doesn’t knock the laws off the books. If it’s illegal to own a certain type of weapon, but you print one out anyway, it’s no different than obtaining it any other way — you’re going to need to get yourself a lawyer if you’re busted with it.

But typical “golly whizbang!” tech magazine hype aside, how stupid is all of this? If I download an episode of Mad Men, I’m public enemy number one. If I download and print out one hundred murder machines without any background checks, I’m freakin’ golden.

America has one seriously fucked up set of priorities.

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