There's big to-do online and around Capitol Hill this week about plans for 3-D printed guns from one controversial startup becoming available online again beginning Wednesday.
Predictably, there's tons of heated discussion around the story of Defense Distributed settling its case with the U.S. Government, which had claimed that posting the gun blueprints online could amount to a violation of international gun trafficking regulations.
Lots of the online debate centers around whether or not 3-D printed guns should exist at all, but this largely misses the point that this particular genie is out of the bottle and very difficult to force back in.
The more productive debate centers on what happens next. And therein lies the opportunity for anyone willing to face the fact that new technologies are increasingly difficult to ignore or ban, but they can be made better, safer and more useful for society.
Right now, any savvy person can get ahold of the printer, raw material and plans to print a gun relatively easily. The U.S. State Department didn't after every company in this space after all.
Of course, there's no guaranteeing that the gun any amateur might create at home won't blow up in their hands the first time it's fired. In fact, that's a very real risk.
So there's an opportunity to be had in developing platforms for a more open flow of designs that will lead to the production of better, safer weapons using this tool. Same goes for creating better, purpose-driven raw materials.
I personally am not particularly excited about the notion of lots of 3-D printed guns in the world, but since they are a very real thing, I'd rather have them be more reliable and safe than essentially be hand-held land mines.
Now there's plenty of people that are even more uncomfortable than me with the notion of 3-D printed firearms. Those folks are going to be lobbying very hard to put the genie back in the bottle. They're inevitably going to fail, but they may succeed at implementing new rules and requirements for making homemade or -designed weapons traceable and detectable.
There's an opening for a savvy entrepreneur here as well. New methods to make such weapons reliably caught by metal detectors or embedded with traceable markings or characteristics could actually help advance such new requirements.
The bottom line is that whether you think 3-D printed guns are great, or they give you serious pause or nightmares, they are here. How they change and evolve to become safer for all of us could be up to some of you.