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Regulating 3D-Printed Guns Won't Solve Any Problems

New York has unveiled legislation meant to regulate the 3D printing of guns. Here's why it's not going to do anything.
A clip from In the Line of Fire; an assassin uses a plastic gun.
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This week Brooklyn democrats introduced legislation that would make it illegal for any New Yorker who's not a registered gunsmith to make a 3D-printed gun.

"If left unregulated, these would be weapons without histories--potentially no identifying marks or sales histories," City Councilman Lew Fidler told the New York Daily News. "We wouldn't even know these weapons exist, until they were fired."

We've debated the ethics of 3D-printing guns before, so this isn't really a new subject, especially for the "maker" community, which has generally addressed the gun-printing issue by distancing itself as much as possible from the hardcore, gun-printing evangelists like DEFCAD. Makerbot, for instance, which makes one of the more popular 3D printers, removed all gun designs listed on its site late last year.

But do we really need to create legislation for this? The idea of lunatics printing AK-47's in their basement is terrifying, sure, but to my mind it's pretty divorced from reality. 

First, consider that to make a "Liberator" pistol, one of the more popular gun designs, you'd first need to invest between $1,500 and $8,000 in a 3D printer. Then, you'd have to make sure the plastic thing doesn't fall apart. And lastly, you'd need to figure out a way for the gun to shoot more than one bullet--because the current design only allows for one shot. 

Speculative media articles like "3D printing could make anyone a gun maker" make it sound like we're on the brink of some 3D-printed gun revolution, where anyone could instantaneously just print out a gun capable of mass destruction. That's just not true. 3D-printing guns is basically a non-issue at this point--even the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives doesn't really care about it. Plus, let's not forget the fact that it's not totally illegal (and still pretty popular) to make zip guns and pipe guns, which have existed since the 1950s. 

Even cops are skeptical that legislation like this could curb any sort of real, menacing threat.

"I don't think it's going to be that big of a problem, people making their own guns," one former detective told The Epoch Times. "Why would you use a cheap gun when you can get a regular one on a black market?"

Good question. 




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