The 3D Printed Gun

It was inevitable. And now we need to figure out what to do about it.

I could imagine people watching ABC news tonight and being introduced to the notion of 3D printing (“Huh? That’s a thing?”) while at the same time told the news that they can now print out their own handgun.

This report is less than a week after an announcement at the other end of the ethical spectrum that a bio-fabrication unit (to research the use of 3D printing to construct human organs) is being opened at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital.

And it will be only a matter of time when ABC news reports the first shooting in the world involving a 3D printed handgun. (Possibly from a home-maker having it blow up in their face.)

It was an easy thing to find Cody Wilson’s Defence Distributed website and download my own copy of the Liberator handgun.

A component from the Liberator 3D printed gun.
A component from the Liberator 3D printed gun.

And if I could do that within a few minutes, then there will be scores of others out right now printing up their own plastic gun components.

Of course, this would be illegal in Australia.

My immediate concern is not that there is a new (and currently unregulated) source of firearms. This was an inevitable eventuality in the 3D printing field. Instead, I am concerned that 3D printing fledgling, and all of the potential uses at home, education, and especially health, would be stifled by knee-jerk reactions from our public officials.

The way forward is not immediately obvious, but a discussion needs to be started so that we can hack and experiment with 3D printing responsibly.

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