Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why Banning Guns Is Pointless, Or Soon Will Be

Thanks to 3D printing, a government ban on guns soon will be as enforceable as a government ban on pictures of guns.

That is because, not in the too distant future, printing objects will be as easy as printing pictures, and if the government can't prevent anyone from printing pictures of guns, it surely won't be able to prevent people from printing actual ones.

3D printing is a rapidly advancing and growing industry with a similarly accelerating amount of personal users or "fabbers" as (even though it's hard to imagine) they like to be called. For those unfamiliar with the relatively new technology it can be best thought of as an ink-jet printer, but instead of ink it sprays plastics or forms metals, and instead of printing one layer on a piece of paper, it sprays layers on top of each other until eventually a three dimensional object is formed.

With this technology one could predict it won't be long until someone can just print a gun in the comfort of their own home, but of course they'd be wrong, because someone already has, well at least parts of a gun (see above picture), and it won't be the last time either.

A group of gunsmiths known as Defense Distributed have not only printed parts of an AR-15 rifle and fired it, but have also posted the printing files online to allow anyone to do the same. And as 3D printing only becomes more accessible (currently a simple home printing unit can cost as little as $500), guns will too.

Banning guns won't work because people can print guns. And Banning 3D printers won't work because their components, though sophisticated, are general purpose, can be ordered separately, and can be easily assembled into a functioning printer.

Therefore the current gun debate is seriously flawed, the growing proliferation of 3D printing shows that. The problem is not any of the 300 million guns in America, nor is it the potential millions of guns waiting to be printed, in the end the problem is the people who use weapons, any weapon, to kill innocent people. 3D printing has not broadened the problem it has refined it, narrowed it to its most basic cause, us.

In the end guns aren't the problem, 3D printers aren't the problem, we are, human nature is. And as we advance and move away from our primitive past, the irony is, the problems our basic tendencies cause only get more pronounced.

While new technologies enhance and extend our abilities, not only do our powers to do good become greater, but so do our powers to do evil. Humans couldn't do much harm when we only had sticks, but once one of us had a sharp piece of metal there was no going back.

Since we can't go back to a time without guns or without 3D printers, and a gun ban won't work, concerned citizens are left asking, what's the solution?

Perhaps the answer is not more laws or more government but more social responsibility. Perhaps the answer is more knowing your neighbours, more seeing if the kids next door are alright, more intervention when someone seems troubled; basically, more caring about others.

As technology has prompted us to get more isolated and individual-oriented, perhaps the best thing we can do is not add more alienating laws and bans, but to start getting closer to those around us.


Kyle H. said...

The solution is pretty simple: simply don't allow 3D printing to be available for personal use, or allow personal models to be able to print these kinds of things. There will be a way to monopolize this kind of technology so only very specific people can print these sorts of items.

Even if personal machines can be "hacked" and they're allowed to make weapons, I don't know what the difference will be from today's situation whereby someone can already manufacture weaponry on their own with homemade or stolen equipment, or buy one illegally.

In other words, I think you're hyping this up too much. said...

Kyle H, as I mentioned in the post the components of 3D printers are used for various purposes and would be impossible to ban. Assembling a 3D printer is easy, some are currently sent out as kits.

The schematics for guns will be as available as, if not more so, pirate music and video files today.

I would also point out that there's a significant difference between an individual able to slowly engineer a firearm and an open source product that allows for a decrentalization of gun manufacturing.