After the tragedies of Sandy Hook and Aurora, the U.S. government is preparing to introduce stricter guidelines on gun ownership. But supporters of the second amendment could get around them by printing their own firearms at home.
The technology is still developing but 2012 saw the first shots fired from guns with printed parts. ‘Gun hacking’ is a growth community in online forums and has become serious business.
“I have five people now making AK-47 magazines – they’re incredibly easy to reproduce”, Cody Wilson, CEO of the Defense Distributed company in Texas, told Metro. A firm believer in the right to bear arms, Wilson is deliberately producing parts for assault weapons likely to be banned by new controls.
“(U.S. Vice-President) Joe Biden’s group are using the assumption that if you control the channel you control the product – but that is not the case any more”, says Wilson. His company have made open-source code for over 30 gun parts available online, and claims they have been receiving thousands of downloads a day.
The printed guns are not a finished product. “At this point the biggest problem is the force of explosion in the chamber”, Kevin Coleman, military technology analyst, told Metro. But the US military have begun to outfit their mobile labs with 3D printers to replace parts, and Coleman believes “further down the line you could produce a weapon that way”.
So how could the weapons be controlled? A spokesman for 3D print company Automaker said it is powerless; “we do not promote guns, but we cannot control the use of the product.” Neither can government intervene effectively, says Michael Weinberg, attorney specializing in emerging technologies for the U.S. Public Knowledge think tank. “When you apply anger over gun control to a general purpose technology there’s a lot of collateral damage”, he said. “It’s like if you regulate steel – a lot of productive areas would be lost. We don’t know enough about 3D printing to legislate the future.”