Newtown. Columbine. Jonesboro. Virginia Tech. Gun control. Just do a Google search; you will get millions of hits. Now search this: 3D printed gun parts. It’s true: it’s a possibility. A group of hobbyists is working on designs now and has already fabricated a few key components. Here’s a link at The Verge that tells more.
The short version: it’s possible and already being prototyped. All you need is a 3D printer: $10,000 for one ready to go, or for the really creative you can build your own for a thousand dollars or two worth of parts. The article I linked to discussed a receiver, one key part that is regulated in automatic weapons. All of the other parts can be bought today and are legal to purchase. However, my prediction is that once a receiver is built it won’t be long until the other required parts can be fabricated or repurposed from other intended uses. For instance, if you want to build a firearm to be used in close quarters you don’t really need a long barrel with rifling, just a tube. And only the first few inches next to the receiver require any reinforcing (duct tape, anyone?); the rest is just to guide the bullet and help aim. And it will be just as easy to fabricate an ammo clip with a 3d printer as a receiver, likely easier.
How far have these builders come? The prototype in the article was able to fire 6 rounds before cracking. However, it is believed that as these hobbyists gain skill their builds will become more robust. In a matter of weeks or months they will be able to build a receiver that will last for hundreds or thousands of rounds, and when it breaks they can print another for … ten dollars? Five? All they need are the raw materials and a bit of time.
Why does this matter? For starters, how will you control who can and can’t build the parts? How will gun control be handled when you can literally print a gun in the privacy of your own home or workshop? How can you control weapons when anyone with access to $10,000 of computer hardware can just build one? The cork is being removed as we speak; the genie’s smoke is already rising.
For sake of disclosure, I must say I do not own a handgun, though I do own several rifles and shotguns and carry a valid hunting license. I will not engage in any debate about the right to bear arms, or hunt, or why I believe or not in this practice. However, the ultimate point I would make is this: the quantity and technologies for making guns are so widely available in this country it would take years or even decades to gather them all even if another one was never made or imported again. Until we address why the finger on the trigger wants to pull it, we are just wasting time. Do I believe gun control will help? For some types of crimes, certainly, and for other crimes not in the least. But in the long run our failure as a society to fix this is due to much more than how easy it is to find a gun here. Until we figure out how to fix the mind behind the gun, the trigger will continue to be pulled.