Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Problem With 3D Printable Guns

The most recent issue associated with a general breakdown of reason and common sense has to do with 3D printable guns.  As the name implies, these can be run off as plastic replicas of actual weapons (e.g. the AR-15) but also capable of firing rounds.   The most recent brouhaha erupted when Cody Wilson- the one man owner of   "Defense Distributed"-   asserted three days ago he wanted to publish blueprints for the weapons online. Wilson actually had the temerity - more or less applicable to a Young Turk on MJ candy - to claim it was "free speech" to be able to do so. And hence when a federal judge in Washington state issued a restraining order, he was interfering with Wilson's speech.

Hardly!  Let's get it clear here that publishing bluprints for a lethal weapon that can easily be programmed to materialize on the nearest computer with a 3D printer, is no more "free speech" than dispatching analogous bomb -making blueprints.   Free speech, meanwhile, would be the freedom to publish books on the history of explosives, or the history of 3D printers and how they came to be capable of producing assorted diverse objects, including medical devices and guns.  There is a difference, believe it or not.

Even as Dotard himself was "looking into plastic guns being sold to the public", Hogan  Gidley - a WH spokesman, went on record asserting "plastic guns were banned by federal law".   (WSJ, Aug. 1st, p A7)

The publication of 3D gun blueprints controverts the 2nd amendment as well as the first. For example, there is no inherent "right" - none at all - to download or own a totally untraceable weapon. Nor is there a right to publish blueprints for such weapons online. By their very nature these artifacts bear no serial number as they are run off from 3D printers, nor is any remote registration practical.  Hence, most of those who'd be interested in getting hold of the blueprints would likely be criminals or terrorists. Why would an ordinary citizen wish to own an untraceable weapon?  It defies logic unless the person was contemplating a future crime, say like holding up a gas station or convenience store.

In addition, the dismissal of the 3D printed weapons as "useless" is a non sequitur.  Thus the claim (ibid.) by Rick Vasquez (a firearms consultant and former ATF official) that:

"You can print a 3D pistol that will fire a few rounds but afterwards will just break"

is no help it all.  Here Vasquez is missing the larger point that it only takes one round fired from such a plastic gun to kill someone - whether a gas station owner during  robbery attempt, or a toddler accidentally shot by an older brother.

But it appears such aspects have little or no sway with the GOP gun nuts. Thus on Tuesday, when Dem Senators attempted to introduce legislation that would prohibit publishing a digital file to program a 3D printer to manufacture a firearm, the measure was blocked by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. Lee, like Wilson, advanced the specious argument that such legislation "violated constitutional free speech protections."

Well, if he'd make that pathetically lamo case, I suppose he'd defend the publishing of Isis kettle bomb blueprints as "constitutional free speech"  too.

It is true, of course, that in the scheme of things, the professional criminal or terrorist would choose a far more reliable gun on the black market for his misdeeds, or build one from sturdier parts. No argument on that score. But what about the bullied loner, sitting alone and stewing in grievance in his mother's basement? Say after the latest incident of being stuffed in his locker - and looking for retribution?  Unable to obtain or afford a gun any other way he spots a blueprint online and uses his 3D printer to assemble it. Next day he fires enough rounds to kill all his chief oppressors in the school cafeteria.

A demented fantasy? Hardly! Because the individuals most likely to want to gain access to such weapons are precisely those who can't access standard weapons.   As Bob Ferguson, the Washington state attorney put it (ibid.):

"These downloadable guns...would be difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and would be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history."

Let us hope enough judges remain - as they are amongst the few to push back against the Trumpites - to sustain orders to keep these guns off the streets.  Wilson is correct that there is likely no way to control the individual production of these 3D guns, but that doesn't mean there is lawful license to go on doing it. At some point, respect for law must emerge on this score, else we could as well conduct a dumpster fire for this country right now.


Publius said...

It's a free speech issue.

If you can publish how to make an H-bomb, you can publish plans for 3D guns.

Copernicus said...

That's the whole point, you CAN'T publish how to make an H-bomb, at least one that will work. Which includes the correct and precise integration of the implosion device.

Copernicus said...

Oh, even IF such detailed instructions were possible (which I doubt in the 'Progressive' example) that doesn't lead to running off the weapon on a 3D printer, so the analogy is flawed. Again, in one case it is just knowledge - in the other knowledge PLUS materialization via printing. The point is that the actual assembly of an H-bomb is a helluva lot more difficult, including accessing the nuclear materials, than running off a 3D gun!