In 2018 the world has taken notice to 3D-printed guns and the ability for anyone that has access to a 3D-printer to have the option to create these types of firearms. In this guide, we will discuss everything about 3D-guns and what the upcoming laws may be.
With guns and mass-shootings at an all-time high, lawmakers around the nation and world are taking action on what laws should be made regarding 3D-printed guns.
We will take a look at what 3D-printed guns can do, how they are made, and what laws are trying to be put into place that could stop them from being produced.
What is 3D-Printing
Before we get into what a 3D-gun is you may not be familiar with what a 3D-printer actually does, let us explain further. 3D-printing is a process of making three-dimensional objects that are solid from a digital file.
The processes of building the digital file are layering additive material, plastics for example until the object is built or created. The beauty of 3D-printing is that it allows for complex shapes to be built versus standard manufacturing methods.
The process always starts with a 3D-model that is downloaded into a computer. A CAD program or similar program is used to design the model. This model is then created by the 3D- printer in consecutive layers until the design is built.
What are 3D-Printed Guns?
Made of plastic and introduced in 2012, a United States-based group Defense Distributed showed plans that could be downloaded showing how to build a single shotgun using a 3D-printer by anyone that had access to these types of printers.
When this happened the United States Department of State quickly deemed that these instructions were to be removed from the Defense Distributed website.
The Department of State said this was a violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
Founder of Defense Distributed, Cody Wilson then sued the U.S. government on free speech grounds. In 2018 Wilson’s won the right to publish instructions on how to produce and print a 3D-printed Gun. There was a great debate when this happened. The public would be worried that anyone could build a firearm that was untraceable from there home.
When the files from Liberator was released to the public worldwide, these blueprint files were downloaded over 100,000 times in just a two day period.
3D-Printing is a process in which material is solidified under computer control in order to create a three-dimensional object.
Because of this, 19 states have filed a lawsuit to block the blueprints from being given away for free. A temporary restraining order was issued by a Seattle judge to keep these plans blocked until a court decision is made. Cody Wilson had a workaround, he started selling the plans to his 3D-printed guns online for a $10.00 fee, rather than giving them away for free.
The files are then downloaded to a thumb drive and shipped to the buyer by standard mail, email, or another secure download method.
Do 3D-Printed Guns work like Normal Guns?
The short answer is sort of. They may look similar to a handgun and it fires a projectile, but that is about it. Here is why.
Traditional firearms are made out of metal and are much stronger. A 3D-plastic gun at this point is made from plastic and when fired can easily be compromised and break the plastic causing damage to the person firing the gun.
Unlike traditional firearms that can hold more rounds, the 3D-printed guns can typically hold 1 or two rounds. Then a manual reload is required to keep firing. Not to mention these guns are not as accurate as traditional firearms.
The Debate on 3D-Printed Guns And Metal Detectors
A law passed in 1988 called the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 makes it illegal for any firearm that is sold, shipped, imported, manufactured, possessed, or received that cannot be traced by a walk-through metal detection device.
In theory, plastic 3D-printed guns can be included in this as they would not trigger a metal detector. In the plans that were submitted by Liberator, it does ask users to insert metal into the plastic gun. However, it has been proven that the gun can still function and fire without adding the metal to the build.
Criminals and 3D-Printed Guns
Let’s face it, one of the major issues and debate over the ability to create a 3D-gun is what would a criminal do with this technology? There are a couple of things to think about this question.
One, would a criminal even want to fire a plastic gun with the capacity of 1 bullet? with the chance of the firearm exploding when it’s fired? Or would they opt to fire a traditional metal weapon with a higher capacity magazine? We think the latter, but let’s continue.
The cost of having to purchase the correct 3D-printer to manufacture a 3D-gun would cost exponentially more than just getting a traditional firearm illegally, or legally for that matter. Not to mention it would be easier for the criminal to get a firearm this way than to build one.
We are not saying that a criminal wouldn’t use this type of gun to commit a crime, we are saying at this point in 3D-printing there are better, cheaper options to obtain a firearm for a crime.
What’s The Future of 3D-Printed Guns
No one knows that this point what the future will hold for this technology. Right now it’s expensive to purchase the correct 3D-printer to create these types of firearms.
The material in plastic makes the gun to unstable when shot and can cause just as much harm to the shooter then the attended victim if it explodes. With that said, technology advances every day could cause great strides in the process of producing a 3D-printed firearm that reduces the difference between a traditional firearm and the 3D-model.
As time goes on there could be more popular with these guns not only in the United States but Australia and other parts of the world.
Up until this point, there have not been any violent crimes reported by the use of a 3D-printed gun, however, this could change when technology changes, especially metal 3D-printing.
The bottom line is that its very unreliable, cost are very expensive, and its easier to get traditional firearms at this point in time.
But this is something we should keep our eyes on as technology advances within the 3D-printing technology sector.