Free Markets, Free People
You’ve all read about the first “3D gun” being made? Well here’s some of the fallout:
Defense Distributed, the Texas-based nonprofit that wants to empower people to 3D print their own guns, has hit a bit of a legal snag. According to founder Cody Wilson, DEFCAD, the open source weapon-printing project powered by Defense Distributed, received a letter (embedded below) from the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Compliance, telling him to remove the blueprints of the Liberator, his 3D printed gun, from the web so that they may be reviewed by the department.
The group’s website currently has a red banner appended to the top that reads, “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”
“We got an official letter from the Secretary of State, telling me who they were, what their authority was under U.S. law and telling me they want to review these files to see if they’re class one munitions,” Mr. Wilson told Betabeat by phone. “That includes blueprints.”
So anyone want to guess how many times those blueprints were downloaded before this order came along? I know there are many other aspects of this case to discuss such as this:
In the letter … the State Department says that Defense Distributed may have released data that is controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulation without getting prior authorization. This would put the company’s actions in conflict with … the Arms Export Control Act.
“Please note that disclosing (including oral or visual disclosure) or transferring technical data to a foreign person, whether in the United States or abroad, is considered an export,” reads the letter. It also says that until Defense Distributed has received the legal all-clear, the company “should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled. This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately.”
But other than a basis to prosecute, the letter accomplishes nothing. Same with the “law”. Add the internet and, well, whoosh, it’s around the world before the government even knows about it.
A perfect example of why, and you can see rumblings of it happening now here (and, of course, it is a top priority in other countries), government is growing more and more interested in controlling the internet. Again, the excuse du jour will be what? “It’s for your own safety and security that we clamp down on these things and take away some of your freedoms”. It has no choice if it is going to enforce it’s laws does it?
And we all remember what Ben Franklin said about trading freedom for security, don’t we?
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.
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.