First off, thank you for such a great and well informed response. This is why I love Medium as a discussion outlet. It seems to be populated almost entirely by respectful, smart, well informed people, who may disagree but still speak civilly.
Yes, it is legal, but it right now it is difficult and expensive. Designs that could be 3D printed would make it cheap and easy. To make a gun today requires heavy machinery like a CNC mill, a lathe, a hydraulic press, a kiln for heat-treating the metal, etc. This equipment is expensive and requires special skills to operate. 3D printing a gun requires a single 3D printer and very little expertise.
Well, yes and no. Lots of people are effectively “building guns” today. It’s exactly why the AR-15 is so popular. You can buy a lower receiver for around a hundred dollars, or a complete AR-15 build kit for around four hundred, and all you need to put it together is an appropriate vice and wrench. You could mill all the parts if you wanted, but the parts are very available to simply buy.
That’s something a lot of folks don’t seem to realize, I think. It used to be that men spent time building and modifying cars, as a kind of masculine creative outlet. One gun instructor I talked to told me he absolutely believes the primary reason for the rise of the AR-15 in popularity is the computerization of cars and the elimination of the carburetor. Far fewer people are working under the shade tree on their Trans-Am, and they seek out another masculine mechanical creative outlet. There may be some truth to this.
I disagree with this. I have done some 3D printing and I know a bit about it, though I am not an expert. Based on my knowledge, it looks like this $300 3D printer from monoprice would be able to print this gun:
I think I’m going to have to completely defer to your knowledge here. I know some folks who got into 3D printing a bit ago, and their outlays were in the range I specified in the article, but if prices have come down for the scale you’d need to build the Liberator, then I wasn’t aware. Your info here is great. If I get around to it, would you mind me linking your Medium post as a corrective footnote in the original article?
Yes and no. Metal guns have the advantages that you mention, including accuracy, durability, and larger magazines. But 3D printed guns have certain characteristics that criminals might value. They could be difficult to detect, for instance. While this particular gun includes a single metal piece so that it doesn’t defeat metal detectors, it would likely be easy to design a plastic replacement piece so that the gun would not set off metal detectors.
I’m not entirely sure that a metal detector couldn’t detect the bullet. That said, any place I’ve ever been with a metal detector has also had people with guns running the metal detector. I think we’d be lucky if criminals made plastic one-shot guns to try and commit crimes in places where there were already armed guards with real guns. On a scenario analysis, that’s way better than what we have now in convenience stores and such. So there’s an issue here of being careful with the counterfactuals.
You are right, 3D printed guns will be a drop in the bucket compared to all the guns in America, but I think they might increase the number of guns available to criminals.
We have certain barriers to (some) criminals buying guns over the counter, in so much that a criminal with a prior conviction or a domestic violence issue such as a TPO can’t buy them. But someone contemplating their first crime can buy a gun anywhere already, and most criminals interviewed say they could get ‘real’ guns very easily.
Since I think it will become cheap and easy for anyone to make 3D printed guns, I think that it will be virtually impossible to keep these guns out of the hands of criminals.
I agree totally, but I honestly think having 3D printed guns in the hands of criminals is vastly preferable to having properly manufactured guns in their hands. And there are so many guns here already, that any attempts to mitigate crime by eliminating the tools of crime are mathematically bound to fail. I went into that a bit in a prior article:
The Magic Gun Evaporation Fairy
Three Reasons Why Gun Ownership Rates From Other Countries Don’t Matter
Where this 3D printed gun crime thing might start to play out, is places like the UK, where they have very tight gun control focused specifically on proliferation, and the criminals perform their crimes with knives and barbed wire wrapped baseball bats.
For the USA, we have no mathematical choice but to address crime in a different way. We have to ask ourselves why people are committing crimes, and mitigate that. I think a lot of the freakout about 3D printed guns is among people who still hold onto a fantasy of a future gun free America, when such a fantasy is simply impossible. It’s been impossible for a long time, but the 3D printed gun news is simply making that impossibility more obvious to them.
I do think there are ways to mitigate “gun deaths,” as well as to mitigate overall crime, if we think deeply about the motivations for both. I synthesized many of my thoughts on those topics here: