Greg Worden

Entrepreneur and Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Business, Worden Associates

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Is Gun Control Over? New 3D printers threaten to make the issue obsolete.

The rise of the Internet and three dimensional (3D) printers will remake manufacturing. As the prices of 3D printers fall and their quality and capability gradually increase we'll be able to make increasingly sophisticated objects. Companies are working on the ability to print electronics as well as increasingly stronger plastics and resins. Thingiverse ( from MakerBot is a great place to find ideas and designs that can be downloaded.

What if you could download a design to print a gun? What would that do to gun control laws?

Not possible? Check out WikiWeapon at:

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    Nov 27 2012: I struggle to see the argument here. The fact that people can grow marijuana at home hasn't affected the legislation, so why should printable guns affect the laws regarding firearms?
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      Nov 30 2012: The best analogy is probably music piracy. In the days before high-quality MP3 formats people could pass along recordings made on tape cassettes. Piracy there was limited by the distribution of the physical media. The Internet exploded this as on person or a group of people could upload millions of songs on peer-to-peer networks allowing millions of people to download them subverting the normal market. As 3D printers become ubiquitous as I would expect them to be one day, the designs for these guns will be available on the Net either through public websites or through more covert peer-to-peer networks. It will be far easier for someone to fabricate a gun.

      Yes, quality control is a big issue as they note in the video but my expectation is that 3D printing is going to be so popular that companies are going to pour money into them and soon they'll be able to print in far greater strengths, possibly sintered metal as Peter points out below.
  • Nov 26 2012: People are beginning to realize the truth that people kill people, and they have a wide range of weapons to choose from. A nut case with a Molotov cocktail can do just as much damage as one with a gun. Gun controls will not stop car bombings. Abusive men do not need a gun to beat their partner and their children, or slit their throats.

    Gun controls might do some good, but it would be a more effective investment to teach people to be nonviolent.
  • Nov 26 2012: "Is Gun Control Over? New 3D printers threaten to make the issue obsolete."

    Try to fire a gun with a plastic barrel, just make sure you're wearing a bomb suit...
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      Nov 26 2012: I take it you've never fired a Glock?
      • Nov 26 2012: Don't confuse the exterior of a gun with its interior: a Glock may have plastic components but I can assure you the barrel is made out of metal.

        @ below

        Not only do you need a metal barrel, you also need a metal trigger hammer, metal bullets and probably metal parts for the chambering and reloading mechanisms.

        One thing about gun regulations that could change is that serial numbers will in the future be required to be put on necessarily metal components such as the barrel.
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          Nov 27 2012: I get that. But the idea is that if you have a barrel and a firing mechanism you can build your own weapon. Any weapon. Think about that.

          What would that do to registration laws?

          I could see the McGiver episode now...
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        Nov 26 2012: Just to elaborate on what John said:
        Plastics do not handle heat well: they melt at low temperatures and are poor thermal conductors. Cordite has a flame temperature of ~3000C, while Dupont has a high-temperature plastic that can withstand 230C, and as you approach the melting point of any solid its tensile strength approaches zero.
        • Nov 27 2012: Also, chamber pressures can be very high. For a 9mm it's approximately 30,000 .. 35,000 PSI.
          And, Glock barrels are definitely made of high quality steel.
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    Nov 27 2012: Regarding the durability of plastics, it won't be long before a laser 3D printer will be able to produce sintered metal products at a domestic scale. A plastic barrel with a sintered iron lining would perform acceptably.
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    Nov 26 2012: I believe these would qualify as "garage guns" under current gun control laws (I'm not an expert though), which are not all that new of a concept. The reasons such guns are not ubiquitous seem to be that non-rifled barrels are wildly inaccurate, and imperfect joints in the construction tend to make the guns quite dangerous to the user. You might be able to engineer a 3D-printed gun to be much more reliable than those, but quality control is always an issue even if you find the right material and have the right equipment. I doubt that this would weaken gun regulations, let alone make them obsolete. If I were to guess, I'd venture that things would unfold much like how the RIAA approached internet piracy.