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Print me a gun please
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By Stephen Browne
Stephen Browne
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By Stephen W. Browne
Nov. 20, 2013 5:27 p.m.

A Texas company Solid Concepts just announced they had made a working model M1911 automatic pistol and test fired 50 rounds through it.
What made this interesting was that the gun was made with a 3-D printer.
Just last year the open-source organization Defense Distributed printed a plastic gun and actually got a few rounds through it, but it broke down very quickly as you might expect.
The State Department then “suggested” Defense Distributed take down their download links for design components as they might possibly be in violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
Solid Concepts succeeded in printing a metal gun, and then fell all over themselves saying, not to worry this tech isn’t the desktop printer you can buy for about $2,000, this is a much more expensive model.
“The industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition (and I went to a private university),” company spokesperson Alyssa Parkinson said. “And the engineers who run our machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3-D printing better than anyone in this business.”
Big deal. Anyone remember what desktop computers used to cost when they first came out, and how little memory and computing power they had? About like your smart phone has now.
I myself have been gritting my teeth, because I’ve been telling anybody who’d listen for the past 30 years this was coming.
The ability to build small arms in small workshops is not new. After the British military disaster at Dunkirk in World War II when a great many of their combat arms were abandoned, they started producing the Sten gun, a stamped metal machine gun with a design so simple it could be produced in garages.
The Polish Resistance used to turn make them in apartments using metal salvaged from bed frames.
Blacksmiths in the Philippines and Afghanistan have turned out replicas of the world’s small arms on hand-cranked lathes for generations now.
For decades it’s been an open secret that any modern machine shop quipped with computer-controlled milling machines could turn out small arms with the right software programs.
The only difference was in the level of expertise needed. New 3D printing technology lowers the skill requirement and puts the ability into the hands of basically everyone.
And it’s going to get cheaper and easier, that’s just the nature of technology.
The more difficult problem actually is the production of modern smokeless powders and primers for the bullets. I’m not certain what the level of tech necessary for this is, but I’m going to guess about the sophistication of your average meth lab.
Bottom line, banning guns from society is a fantasy.
Ban the technology? How well has that ever worked?
And do you want to ban the tech that is going to revitalize manufacturing and make possible wonders such as small business custom car manufacturing?
Enact draconian penalties for possession of firearms?
That’s certainly one option. One that creates an incentive not to submit to arrest and try to shoot it out with the police instead.
And what haunts me is the feeling that once all firearms are banned, why wouldn’t a criminal, or even a very scared citizen willing to break the law, say, “Oh well, hung for a sheep, hung for a lamb. The heck with a pistol, print me a Sten”?
Law enforcement is rightly concerned about firearms with no serial numbers getting into circulation, and guns cheap enough to be used in one crime then destroyed. The existence of a legal aboveground firearms industry at least insured that almost all guns could be identified and a reasonably accurate record of the chain of ownership maintained.
As a society we should have been thinking and discussing the potential consequences of this for a long time now. Instead we’ve been absorbed in what we can now see was an utterly pointless debate about whether society should be disarmed.
We are for better or worse going to remain an armed society, at least in potentia, forever.

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