Defense Distributed has used a plastic casting technology to facilitate printing an untraceable gun using a 3D printer. The group plans to post the blueprints for making the gun online so that any citizen can readily have a gun. The company intends to test how governments will react when they realize that any citizen can have easy access to a gun online.
A replica of the plastic gun can be made by buying a 3D printer for under $1000, downloading the blueprints for the “Liberator” gun, printing the pieces and assembling them. The ramifications are frightening for security attempting to detect illegal weapons at customer checkpoints. The Liberator looks like a miniature snubnose 38 with a short stubby plastic handle. The weapon can fire bullets like any other gun. Currently, legislators are working on ways to keep these easily created guns off the streets.
Even if the government could control the use of a 3D printed gun through licensing, there is a practical problem of detecting the weapon at checkpoints like railways, airports, schools, public arenas and virtually any place where large numbers of people congregate. In addition, the 3D printed guns must be tested by law enforcement to assess their capability and comparability to guns with a predetermined amount of metal in the manufacturing process.
Until legislation is drafted to restrict plastic gun replication, the most practical avenue of recourse is to prohibit websites from printing the instructions to manufacture them. The main enforcement mechanism for restricting the replication of these plastic guns must be the various providers of internet services.
Legislators can go further by requiring manufacturers of 3D printers to include smart chips which seek printing permission licensing keys in response to commands to print instructions for assembling plastic or paper guns. In this way, only law enforcement could utilize the 3D technology for reproducing paper or plastic weapons.