Amateur gun makers are already at work on 3D-printed guns and at least one top 3D printing company, Stratasys, is using its technology to help manufacture weapons. The company is "working with some of the world's top firearms-makers" including Knight's Armament Co. and Remington Arms, according to Wired. Stratsys has also been a regular exhibitor at the annual Shot Show in Las Vegas, a forum for firearms companies.
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As further proof, Wired cited the two-year-old video above, which shows a chassis center section of a Saber rifle produced with a Stratasys printer. A rep from Stratasys confirmed that the company works with defense contractors and gun manufacturers.
The idea of giving members of the general public the ability to make their own guns is a chilling thought for some. As The Guardian mused, "Imagine an America in which anyone can download and print a gun in their own home. They wouldn't need a license, a background check, or much technical knowledge, just a 3D printer." Indeed, that's the idea behind Wiki Weapon, a project overseen by Cody Wilson, a second-year law student at the University of Texas. Wiki Weapon aims to open source blueprints for guns, which could be created with 3D printers.
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Wiki Weapon was hoping to produce its first, plastic gun before Stratasys canceled its lease on the grounds that printing a gun would violate federal firearms laws. Wilson, who believes he is not breaking any laws, posted the letter on Defense Distributed's website. Stratasys released a statement charging that Wilson's intended weapon "is illegal according to the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (a.k.a. 'The Plastic Guns' Law) which prohibits the manufacturing or possession of a gun undetectable by airport metal detectors."
Wilson says he has no plans to use another printer. "No felt need yet," he wrote in an email to Mashable. "Getting legal ducks in a row, talking to equity, etc." His venture is indeed in a gray legal area. While it's legal to make a gun at home without a license, it's illegal to sell or trade it. However, machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and concealed firearms need prior approval by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Despite the murky legal status of 3D printed guns, Wisconsin engineer and amateur gunsmith Michael Guslick was able to build the frame of a .22 caliber AR-15 rifle -- the same model suspect James Holmes used in this summer's Aurora, Colo., shootings -- with a home 3D printer this summer.
Dudley Brown, executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights, applauded Guslick's efforts, telling Wired, "People have been making firearms at home since before America was a country. And not only does it not make it dangerous, it makes America safer. It’s where most of the innovation came from. John Moses Browning built guns out of his basement. We’re still using them."
As for Wilson, when asked if he was afraid that the masses will use 3D printing to make their own guns, he answered, "Afraid of it? Their ability to do that is the very goal."
What do you think? Are you excited or scared about the prospect of 3D-printed guns?
This story originally published on Mashable here.