Photo: Courtesy of Michael Guslick
One of the major possibilities in the future of gun control — and manufacturing in general — is the potential of 3D printers to build items from scratch. That has led to at least one person designing and printing parts for an AR-15 rifle. He may be the first to test his work.
This morning Wired’s Danger Room had a post about engineer Michael Guslick’s effort to print an AR-15 from scratch. Using the schematics for the firearm, Guslick was able to digitally represent parts of the rifle and print them.
That data file is sent to the printer, which interprets it and “prints” a 3-D real world model of the file. The process is legitimately used in design when developing prototypes and models of engineering designs.
The gun is made of polymer plastic, but the technology behind 3D printing is progressing at a rate that could make inexpensive metal “ink” a possibility soon. Some companies already have prototype metal 3D printers.
The part of this story that nobody is covering is how Guslick’s work can be spread around the internet. Moreover, it — or an imitator’s work — already has.
Photo: ALoopingIcon / Wikimedia
There’s a very active “Physible” community that spreads designs that contributors wrote up in code. By spreading this around, different people with 3D printers can collaborate and expand on their work. A lot of people use bittorrent sites to spread these around.Bittorrent is a downloading system where a group of people who have a file each send a portion of the file to a downloader. This is coordinated by a downloadable .torrent file that links the group together. With standard downloading, the transaction is from one uploader to one downloader. With bittorrent, it’s teamwork.
Quick heads-up: Due to their dubious legality, Torrent download sites may be considered not safe for work. They have racy advertisements too. So use judgement when clicking these links.
Now, we haven’t checked these files to make sure they’re the real deal. But if they are, they introduce a whole mess of legal questions.
When guns can be downloaded and manufactured reliably, that’s when gun control as it is currently understood goes completely out the window. It becomes obsolete.
In order to regulate, the government would have to contend with an assortment of free speech issues; would possession of the code for an illegal gun be a crime? Can writing that code be considered an expression of free speech? Can executing it?
Right now, the technology has not progressed to the point where an operational firearm can be printed and used. But it’s getting there, and the designs are already becoming free to share and download.
Once the tech catches up, though, prepare for one of the first controversies involving both the first and second amendment.
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