Free Markets, Free People

The end of gun control?

I ran across an article in Forbes by Mark Gibbs, a proponent of stricter gun control, in which he thinks, given a certain technology, that gun control in reality may be dead.

That technology?  3D printers.  They’ve come a long way and, some of them are able to work in metals.  That, apparently led to an experiment:

So, can you print a gun? Yep, you can and that’s exactly what somebody with the alias “HaveBlue” did.

To be accurate, HaveBlue didn’t print an entire gun, he printed a “receiver” for an AR-15 (better known as the military’s M16) at a cost of about $30 worth of materials.

The receiver is, in effect, the framework of a gun and holds the barrel and all of the other parts in place. It’s also the part of the gun that is technically, according to US law, the actual gun and carries the serial number.

When the weapon was assembled with the printed receiver HaveBlue reported he fired 200 rounds and it operated perfectly.

Whether or not this actually happened really isn’t the point.  At some point there is no doubt it will.  There are all sorts of other things to consider when building a gun receiver (none of which Gibbs goes into), etc., but on a meta level what Gibbs is describing is much like what happened to the news industry when self-publishing (i.e. the birth of the new media) along with the internet became a realities.   The monopoly control of the flow of news enjoyed by the traditional media exploded into nothingness.  It has never been able to regain that control, and, in fact, has seen it slip even more.

Do 3D printers present the same sort of evolution as well as a threat to government control?  Given the obvious possibility, can government exert the same sort of control among the population that it can on gun manufacturers?  And these 3D printers work in ceramic too.  Certainly ceramic pistols aren’t unheard of.    Obviously these printers are going to continue to get better, bigger and work with more materials. 

That brings us to Gibb’s inevitable conclusion:

What’s particularly worrisome is that the capability to print metal and ceramic parts will appear in low end printers in the next few years making it feasible to print an entire gun and that will be when gun control becomes a totally different problem.

So what are government’s choices, given its desire to control the manufacture and possession of certain weapons?

Well, given the way it has been going for years, I’d say it isn’t about to give up control.  So?

Will there be legislation designed to limit freedom of printing? The old NRA bumper sticker “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” will have to be changed to “If guns are outlawed, outlaws will have 3D printers.”

Something to think about.  I think we know the answer, but certainly an intriguing thought piece.  Registered printers?   Black market printers?  “Illegal printers” smuggled in to make cheap guns?

The possibilities boggle the mind.  But I pretty much agree with Gibbs – given the evolution of this technology, gun control, for all practical purposes, would appear to be dying and on the way to dying.


Twitter: @McQandO

7 Responses to The end of gun control?

  • Yeah, read that.
    Could be the end of a lot of patents, too.  Interesting…

  • Information has proven harder to control than material goods. The government will try to clamp down on the sharing of certain designs, and I don’t know how feasible it is to get 3D printer manufacturers to eventually make their printers recognize gun parts and refuse to print them, but they’ll look into it.  And where weapons are concerned they will probably have a good deal of support even from people who support lawful ownership. But they’ll still fail to stop motivated people from using this to develop untraceable weapons.

    • Good point on the IP angle to this story.  There are two sides to this: the physical manufacturing capability, and the trafficking in the plans/schematics to make the manufacturing work.  Based on the content of this article, it’s possible to have a personal manufacturing facility in your spare bedroom (not your garage – your bedroom).  As I pointed out to a friend last night, the plans for the AK-47 have been in the public domain for years.  Given how successful the RIAA has been at stopping music piracy, does anybody seriously think the government will be able to prevent the spread of gun designs?  Face it, liberals – even in the wake of Gabby Giffords and Aurora, gun control is a nonstarter on every level.

      • Hell, all they have to do is clamp down on ammo and it’s components.

  • I was watching “American Guns” on the Discovery Channel, and they had an order for a fully automatic M16 to be to used to lt fols simulate combat firing from a helicopter.

    They built the receiver with their $200,000 3D printer. They are a fully licensed gunsmith, with the automatic licences and all (Class III FFL ), and certainly paid for the software to load into the printer.

    It doesn’t matter how they try to protect the software, it would not be a complicated effort to unprotect for a bright software engineer.

    Of course I know several people with fully automatics that are unlicensed, and they are extremely careful about it. You can legally buy one, but it’s likely to cost $10k for the gun, tax stamp, etc, but if you just happen across one, it is not easy to make one legal that one has acquired from anywhere but a Class III FFL dealer.

    I have no doubt that there will be black market printed auto’s, and of course they will be cheaper than the legal version, the hard part will be taking them out to play.

  • They’ll ban the uploading of specs or mandate that printers have ability to internally block any gun spec. As tech frees us tech gives our jailers ability to control us in equal messure