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U.S. Government Moves To Ban 3D Printed Gun
May 10, 2013
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Well, it didn't take the U.S. government long to take aim at the new 3D-printed gun that was unveiled this week.

Washington has ordered the gun's designer, Defense Distributed, to remove the blueprints for the gun from its website - after they were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

In an email, the U.S. State Department told Defense Distributed that publishing the design online might be against the law related to shipping weapons overseas.

That's because, by putting the blueprints on the web, it allows people outside the U.S. to download them and potentially make the gun.

The company has complied and removed the files from its Defcad site, writing "until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information."

However, that's no guarantee people can't get a hold of the designs. They're already out there on other sites, so it's going to be pretty difficult for authorities to stop them from being shared.

As Wired puts it, "Like music piracy, cracking down on the (gun's) files is a bit like a giant game of whack-a-mole."

U.S. officials told Cody Wilson, 25 and the founder of Defense Distributed, to take down the blueprints while they investigate whether the gun violates arms-control regulations.

"They are stalling, they are going to make this review last as long as they can," Wilson said. "They are getting a lot of political pressure."

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The 3D printed gun, called the Liberator, is small and looks like a toy but it was made out of plastic using an industrial 3D printer that cost more than $7,500.

That enabled the designers to use high-density, heat resistant plastic that was strong enough and powerful enough to handle the firing of a bullet. In all, there are 16 parts - two of which are not 3D printed (a metal nail, which acts as the firing pin, and a 170 gram piece of metal).

As Wired points out, "That metal is needed because US legislation specifically outlaws any firearm that can't be picked up by a walk-through metal detector or airport-style X-ray machine."

Before creating the gun, Wilson said he got a licence to make and sell the weapon from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And he told the BBC that his company's operations were registered with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Wilson, 25 and a law student at the University of Texas, believes everyone has the right to a gun.

He says the idea to create a printed gun, available to anyone, is "about liberty" and effectively making gun laws and governments meaningless.

Critics say Wilson is adding to America's gun problem, because his design means anyone with access to a 3-D printer could make a gun at home, which would effectively be unregulated, with no background checks - potentially making it easier for criminals to get through security checks or metal detectors.

New York senator Charles Schumer plans to introduce legislation that would ban guns like Wilson's.

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There are suggestions, even by gun control advocates, that the fear of 3D guns is being blown out of proportion. Consider this excerpt from a piece by cnet.com:

"In terms of the implications for guns laws, we think it's incredibly overblown," said Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

"Could someone considering a terrorist (or criminal) act buy a 3D printer, download the files, experiment [with them] and go through the full process to make one gun, not knowing how many times it will fire? Probably not."

Everitt argued that anyone intending a mass shooting can acquire a gun in a matter of minutes and probably doesn't care too much about whether their purchase is tracked because they're usually suicidal or expect to get caught. But he also said that people have been coming up with ways to make guns at home for quite some time, and that even so, "these guns never turn up in crimes because the fact is, it's so damn easy to get guns."

In its piece, Wired makes this point: "The Liberator is extremely crude and inaccurate compared to a properly manufactured metal firearm (and there is the possibility that it might explode if not carefully assembled, as in Wilson's demonstration), so consider it more of a philosophical statement for now. One the US government is keen to quash."

And James Ball of The Guardian says the U.S. government's effort to ban the blueprints will ultimately fail writing...

"This is a very early - and ultimately, probably insignificant - cock-up in what could easily descend into a protracted online war. Few people have 3D printers, and at present, it's hardly the easiest way to get hold of illicit weaponry. The design itself is supposedly something of a "Saturday night special", a weapon possibly as dangerous to the user as the person it's pointed at.

But the wider political danger it could represent is huge. This is a ban that's going to be virtually impossible to enforce: as almost any music company will testify, stopping online filesharing by banning particular sites or devices is roughly akin to stopping a tsunami with a bucket."

Brent Bambury of 'Day 6' has an interview with Cody Wilson that's airing tomorrow at 10am on CBC Radio 1. You can also listen to it on their website.

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