Friday, May 10, 2013
I was trying to figure out why everyone is so cranked up about the 3D printed gun. It doesn't look particularly potent.
65 years ago or so, my dad and all the kids he grew up with used to build fully functional zip guns. They'd raid the local junk yard for parts and materials. Some of the kids were pretty clever. They were at the point where their zip guns could auto eject and chamber another round. They hadn't gotten all the bugs out, jams were common, but they were on their way. At the bare minimum, those kid built guns were at least as usable as the new 3D printed guns.
By the time these kids were 13 – 15 or so, they stopped playing with zip guns. At that age they all had real guns. Homemade guns were fun to build and shoot, but they weren't accurate enough to shot a squirrel in the eye at 100 yards.
Today the average Redneck with a few tools can build a gun with the junk in his garage. It's not rocket science.
So I'm thinking, why is the government so freaked out about a 3D printed gun? It's probably not about this particular gun. When the technology gets advanced enough, they could print out assault rifles. Oh wait, the technology is already advanced enough to pretty much do that. How do you think the firearms companies prototype their new designs? They can print directly in metal. It's a hugely expensive process, but we all know how fast technology can advance and prices come down.
One thing that the printed gun does is put firearms in the hands of a whole different class of people. At first it'll be the computer nerds. Just like they were the early adopters of computers, they are the early adopters of 3D printers. Now everyone and their grandmother use computers. At some point in time everyone and their grandmother will be able to download and print guns. The skill level needed will be minimal.
There are huge economic pressures for the rapid development of 3D printers. Companies won't have to keep parts in stock. You need a part for your obscure make of car? No problem. Just load up a file and print it out. Think of the transportation and inventory savings. Now imagine being able to print out parts at home. Even simple things like screws, bolts, coat hangers, kitchen gadgets, and other everyday things. It would be worth it for me, just to save trips into town.
Of course, a functional gun is pretty simple too. The government could try and regulate or even shut down 3D printing, but at a huge national economic cost. Worse, their efforts probably won't work. Bet you are only a couple clicks away from being able to download a pirated version of the gun.
Maybe we'll see if Heinlein was right, “A well armed society is a polite society.”