Thank you for the response!
Likely this is something that we disagree upon, and maybe that should be the focus of debate, but I think that is important to understand where I’m coming from.
Regardless of the true cost at the moment, 3D printable guns will make guns more accessible for all populations. Not just criminals, but law-abiding hobbyists, curious teenagers and more.
I believe there is a fundamental flaw in your estimation that a maximum of 300,000 guns could be added, because it assumes production of a single gun per printer. The danger (or freakout fear) is based on the ability for these to be mass-produced. That’s the sea change. Take only ten enterprising individuals who want to make a business of it who purchase 100 printers and you could easily surpass your estimate in a year (based on Jordan’s estimate of a gun in 24 hours).
I think a lot of people are worried about what you’re worried about — that guns could become ubiquitous. But I think those people don’t fully understand that guns are already far beyond ubiquitous in the USA.
So let’s take your example and play it out. Ten individuals decide to buy 100 printers each, at $300 per printer. Each has a startup cost of $30,000. Between them all, they’ve spent a third of a million dollars on printers.
Each could print one gun per day from each of 100 printers, and sell them. To be explicitly clear, this would be illegal unless each applied for an FFL license, and registered with the ATF, but what you envision would be totally legal if they did the proper paperwork. Once they have an FFL, they can sell to other FFLs, or to individuals who pass background checks.
These thousand printers each print one gun per day, and at the end of the year they’ve printed 365,000 guns. Sounds like a lot. If each of these printed guns sold, then that would increase the USA’s guns per capita ratio by 0.1%.
Now that could perhaps be a big deal in England. That same number of guns would increase their guns/cap by 83% in a single year. But that’s because there’s ten times fewer guns in all of England than there are in Greater Atlanta Georgia alone.
The most recent numbers I’ve seen about the number of NCIS background checks, which people go through before purchasing a legal firearm over the counter, were for 2015. In that year, there were 23 million background checks. Those don’t all refer to a newly manufactured gun, just to a gun being sold, many of which are used and still in good repair. So the ten guys each with 100 printers would constitute 1.6% of the (legal) firearm transactions in the country.
But that entire hypothetical pretty much misses the point. Gun owners aren’t going to buy these things, because they already have a gun. Non-gun owners are almost assuredly not going to want to fire a plastic gun. Criminals would be fools to attempt a crime with them, and if they did, we should encourage them to be foolish.
You discussed metal detection, but I think that is largely irrelevant. What percentage of public spaces employ metal detectors? Less than 1% would be my guess. And the concern is not just criminal usage but the greater risk of accidents and escalation of arguments that result in death. People will always argue and if it’s easier to carry a lethal weapon, more of those will result in fatalities.
I hear this a lot, but it seems to come from a position as if we weren’t already thoroughly gun saturated as a country. And that position is not very supportable with data. 40% of the country already owns guns. Let’s think about the numbers for a second.
If you’re in a packed movie theater with 300 people in it, there are 120 gun owners sharing the same dark room with you. Most of them don’t carry guns with them wherever they go. By averages, though, 18 of the people in that theater are concealed carry permit holders, who might (depending on local laws, state laws, and business policy) actually be armed right there in the room with you. And those people are less likely to commit a crime with them than actual police officers are. Again depending on local and state laws, you might have walked passed armed private citizens a dozen times today alone.
I posted a link to this article earlier, but I feel I need to do it again in case someone else stumbles across the thread:
The Magic Gun Evaporation Fairy
Three Reasons Why Gun Ownership Rates From Other Countries Don’t Matter
Think about the second section in that article, the stoichiometry section. If every criminal can get ten guns today, then magically evaporating half the guns in the country (which would be impossible) would mean the criminal could only get five guns tomorrow. Even if 3D printing were to magically drop an additional 35 million plastic guns into the marketplace, that would just mean that the criminals who could buy ten guns today could buy eleven guns tomorrow, one of which is plastic.
The level of gun saturation we have here is so tremendously outrageous, that it literally doesn’t matter how many more guns we add to the market. We could double the number of guns in this country and crime wouldn’t move at all, because we’re well past the gun saturation threshold by any measure. We could half it and it wouldn’t change either. To get us down to “England” levels, we’d need to evaporate 98% of our guns, and there is no way to do that.
One hypothetical that comes to mind is if we made hand grenades legal. In all honesty, I think they are super cool…terrifying, but super cool. There might be a lot of people who would think of interesting, fun, funny, non-lethal uses. There might also be people who believe they could be useful to have to defend against crime and criminals. But if we made them legal to own and easy to obtain, what do you think the consequences would be?
The consequences of making hand grenades legal could be very bad, but it’s a very poor comparison because we don’t have 350 million hand grenades already floating around the country. Let’s clean up the analogy:
In the hypothetical United States of Bomberica, 40% of the country already owns a hand grenade stockpile. There are more hand grenades in Bomberica than people. A new technology comes along that makes building hand grenades ten times cheaper and very easy, but these new grenades are unreliable, have a tiny blast radius, are difficult to throw on target, and are generally less deadly. Would this new technology increase the number of hand grenade deaths? Doubtful, as anyone who wants to kill someone with a hand grenade probably already owns a good one.
On the hand grenade topic, there’s actually a pretty big problem with them in Sweden. Google around, it’s pretty fascinating.