The decision by the Department of Justice to drop a case regarding 3D printing files for firearms was a significant move, and one that will undermine gun control efforts throughout the world. At least in theory. After all, the technology is accessible worldwide and if people have the files, they can then turn around and make their own guns regardless of the law.
However, it seems there’s an awful lot of kvetching about how this technology is going to change everything that’s really overstating the possibilities.
Americans will soon be able to make 3D-printed guns from their home, widening the door to do-it-yourself versions of firearms including the AR-15 — the gun of choice in American mass shootings — that are untraceable with no background check required.
A settlement earlier this year between the State Department and Texas-based Defense Distributed will let the nonprofit release blueprints for guns online starting Aug. 1, a development hailed by the group as the death of gun control in the United States.
“The age of the downloadable gun begins,” Defense Distributed stated on its site. Its founder, Cody Wilson, tweeted a photograph of a grave marked “American gun control.”
The plans freely available next month put firearms clicks away from anyone with the right machine and materials. That reality has startled gun control advocates, who say it makes untraceable firearms all the more available.
David Chipman, who worked 25 years as an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told Vice News that the homemade guns favored by hobbyists have since become popular with criminals.
“Now, criminals have started using ghost guns as a way to circumvent assault weapon regulations,” said Chipman, now an adviser to the gun control advocacy group Giffords. “I imagine that people will also start printing guns to get around laws.”
Gun plans previewed on Defense Distributed’s website feature the Liberator pistol along with an AR-15 and a VZ-58, a Czechoslovakian assault rifle.
However, as even USA Today noted, this isn’t exactly new. People have been able to make guns for years now. Hell, my first AK was built in a buddy’s backyard from a kit, back before the ATF decreed that barrels had to be destroyed prior to import. Was there a serial number on it? Sure, but only because I put one there.
For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from anti-gunners, literally nothing changes. In fact, access to this technology may actually make people safer.
As things stand now, those who aren’t able to construct AR-15s or semi-auto AK-47s have to look elsewhere for weapons to build. One of the more popular examples based on what we’ve seen throughout the world? Submachineguns based on P.A. Luty’s design, specifically engineered for backyard manufacture.
The thing is, criminals aren’t exactly known for their self-discipline. They don’t go out to the range and train on how to use a weapon like a sub-gun accurately and efficiently. Instead, they’ll use it like a bullet hose and spray rounds everywhere.
But if they’re building AR-15s or similar weapons, guess what? They’re building semi-automatic weapons that, while deadly, are actually less of a threat to bystanders.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any criminal having any gun, but let’s also be honest here. They’re getting guns anyway. It’s not like we’re seeing this as the only or even primary way criminals are getting guns. Mr. Chipman keeps peddling this claim, but he never seems to provide any real numbers to quantify how common this is.
Frankly, I’d argue it’s not very common at all. Why would it be when the criminals can get guns easily enough off the streets?
All this new reality does is mean Defense Distributed can share plans that were previously going to be shared surreptitiously. How about we stop overstating the impact of these files?