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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

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3D Printed Gun Templates Ordered Taken Down, But Is It Already Too Late?

Today was supposed to be the dawn of a new era for guns in America. Instead, a Seattle federal judge issued an order that prevents easy access to templates for 3D printed guns. Does this mean an end to the idea of anyone being able to build one’s own gun simply by accessing an internet file?

Not so fast. Here’s an update on the next horizon in the nation’s gun fight.

Is this the end, or just the beginning?
Photo by Kamenev, made available by Wikimedia, and licensed under Creative Commons

A day after I posted my first story on 3D printed guns, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik granted a temporary restraining order to the State of Washington in its suit against the State Department for entering into a settlement with Cody Wilson that would have allowed his organization, Defense Distributed, to publish instructions for “The Liberator” 3D printed pistol on the open internet. Shortly after Judge Lasnik issued his order, Wilson backed down and removed the templates from Defense Distributed’s files.

However, Lasnik’s order did not stop another group of gun enthusiasts from posting their own set of instructions to build 3D printed guns. The new “Code Is Free Speech” coalition proceeded to not only post a template for a 3D printed pistol, but also post templates for several high-powered firearms, including the very AR-15 assault weapon that’s become increasingly common in mass shootings. And Wilson himself boasted to CNN that “the ship has sailed” because he had already posted the templates before Lasnik issued his order. Or in other words, despite the judge’s order and even should these templates be scrubbed from their original sites, Defense Distributed and “Code Is Free Speech” may have already succeeded in adding “build your own gun” instructions to the already complex “dark web” where everyone from political dissidents to terrorists and drug dealers goes to communicate in encrypted spaces that aren’t easily accessible to most others, including law enforcement agencies.

Are 3D printed guns unstoppable?
Photo by Andrew Davey

So what does this mean for us now? Because 3D printing is expensive, and because 3D printed guns have had limited firepower up until now, it hasn’t seemed like a very pertinent issue. But with 3D printing technology improving, the digital production of guns will likely become less expensive and result in more effective weapons.

So is the mass availability of 3D printed guns inevitable, as Cody Wilson has suggested? Not necessarily. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), a leader on gun violence prevention in Congress, has proposed background checks requirements for obtaining 3D printers. Others have proposed a requirement for software that blocks the 3D printing of guns, or simply a stricter licensing process for possession of guns and ammunition.

But of course, that requires action. Hear that, President Donald Trump? Senator Dean Heller (R)? Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R)? If we truly want to do something about the rise of 3D printed guns, now’s a good time to start doing. What, if anything, will they do? And if they don’t act, will voters opt for a different set of leaders who will act?

Cover photo by Sunny Burns, made available by the U.S. Army, and placed in the public domain. 

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Comments (1)

  1. I think it’s time we let this idea go forward and perhaps cripple the profits and stranglehold the gun companies have on us through the nra. When guns are everywhere, the government may have to rethink the 2nd amend b.s.

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