How Long Before Regulations Catch Up?

5 years?  20 years?  Our [mostly] democratically-elected overlords are still trying to figure out how to regulate cell phones, that internet “thing” and how to keep our elections fair.  So…how long before this even gets on their radar?

Gutenberg’s Rifle: The Downloadable Firearm Is Almost Real

Defense Distributed clears a hurdle in its race to be the first to print a working firearm.

The license allows Wilson’s group to deal firearms, but more importantly to him, it allows the company to build and test prototypes in materials other than metals, as firearms manufacturers. Private individuals would face stiff penalties for engaging in activities that Defense Distributed needs to do to build the printed weapon.

It’s hard but not impossible to see how the government might eventually come to regard the printed gun. At least one law already on the books is relevant, the Undetectable Firearms Act. Others could follow. It takes a license from the state to cut hair anymore. Licensing of some sort may eventually come to play in the 3D printing realm.

Or not. The push for industry licensing frequently comes from the industry itself, as a means of using government as gatekeeper against competition. At this point, no complete firearm has ever been printed. Many parts have, but never the whole. Gun manufacturers so far have not reacted to Defense Distributed. Wilson’s group has printed a slew of magazines and lowers. They’re using a combination of standard firearms parts and common household hardware to make their printed parts function with traditionally manufactured stocks, receivers, and barrels. The 3D printing industry is new and diffuse, more a novelty than an actual industry other than among the few companies that develop and build the printers. Most 3D printers are being used to print rapid prototypes of toys, or candy molds, or even bicycles. Advocates of 3D printing as an industry have long hailed the creation of such mundane objects as “revolutionary,” only to turn around in shock and fear when Wilson turned up to do something unexpected and truly revolutionary.

After Johannes Gutenberg printed the Bible in 1455, launching the era of efficient printing, the effects of the invention of the printing press spread quickly. Within a few years, the printing press had spread all across Europe and by 1533 to the Americas. Science, art, literature, education, faith, politics, media, and entertainment were all changed forever. Kings and kingdoms could no longer contain information or keep it out of their domains. Now fast forward to the world wide web and the possibility of designing an object in software in Austin and pushing a button to print it — make it real –  it in New York. Or, if there is a 3D printer available there, Damascus or Tehran or Beijing.

3D printing really could change everything about manufacturing and the marketing and distribution of goods and technology. The prices of 3D printers are coming down, as their speed and capabilities leap forward. Jim Kor’s Urbee 2 brings the printed car nearer to production. Another group, RepRap, is working on building printers that replicate themselves. Wilson is aware of RepRap’s potential ramifications for his own project, as Defense Distributed races toward the printing of a working firearm.

In the not too distant future, printed guns may be available for as little as $50 apiece, just a download and a button push away from everyone who wants one.

Perhaps the most important fact not discussed in the article is that is is an AR’s “lower” [the lower part of the body of the rifle] and it’s features that current laws usually use as the determinant for whether the rifle meets legal standards or not.  With Defense Distributed and their [eventual] competitors, people can theoretically order the plans on the ‘Net, simply print one up with your own 3D-printer with water-soluble plastic, and literally wash away the proof of your civil/criminal disobedience to unconstitutional laws after a day on the range.

Amazing times we live in…

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