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It’s Too Late To Stop 3D Printed Guns…

But That Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Worth Trying To Slow The Flow Of Information On How To Make Them…

The so-called “crypto anarchist” who recently reached an agreement with the Justice Department to start the distribution of blueprints for all kinds of 3D printed guns, already uploaded some of those plans late last week. Even though the ban on distribution wasn’t supposed to end until today. And so by now those plans have already been downloaded thousands of times. (And other designs have been available online for a while — just like everything is — if you really wan to find it).

Here’s NPR’s take:

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But does that mean it’s not worth trying to slow it down?

A federal judge’s injunction late yesterday may temporarily put the brakes on a wider distribution of this set of 3D gun blueprints. So that still may be worthwhile, especially since people including the President (although we question how strong his resolve will be once the NRA has more of a chance to “guide” him), are questioning whether they are a good idea.

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Fact is, it was his own administration that decided to reach a settlement allowing distribution of the plans for the guns to be released in the first place. 2 weeks ago. So if he really wanted to do something about it, he had plenty of time. Weeks. Not the eve of a major new policy going into effect. He didn’t…

Now you may reasonably ask: with conventional guns so easy to get in this country, why would anyone go to all the trouble of fabricating a 3D printer gun? Only two reasons we can think of:

  1. They’re 3D printer enthusiasts.
  2. They’re criminals, terrorists, etc., who’ll go to great lengths to get their hands on a gun that’s untraceable and undetectable. That’s why they’re called “ghost guns”.

So at the same time as Trump continues to lambaste Democrats for being soft on crime and loving gangs, his administration is handing criminals a huge gift.

And while the NRA — at least at time of publication of this story — isn’t exactly addressing the issue head-on, it’s pretty easy to discern where they stand. While there’s no big feature on 3D printed guns on their home page (as there usually is for a Second-Amendment issue of this size), there’s a profile of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer where the NRA roundly criticizes him as a “fear monger” about 3D printed guns. And of course, since 3D printed guns haven’t really been widely accessible, there’s no way of assessing whether it’s “fear mongering” or not.

Here’s an argument for why those fears might actually be legit: there are also a lot of people outside the U.S. who would like to get their hands on the blueprints for 3D printed guns, and they might not be friends of the U.S. That’s a large part of the reason why the federal government had stopped the distribution until now: because they considered it a matter of national security.

And Trump could use the national security argument — as he often does about so many things — to at least not make it his administration’s official policy to turn away from having a say in distribution of these blueprints.

Yes, people who really want those blueprints either have them already, or can easily find someone who does and is probably willing to share. You can find all kinds of unsavory things on the internet. (But we do all kinds of things to hamper the ease of access to those things.)

That doesn’t mean people who want the designs should be able to access them willy-nilly right away without much sober thought given to the implications.

And there’s still a choice: even for us, even today. For instance, do we show a link to the site that’s publishing these 3D printer gun designs? Originally, we had that in here. (And it’s easy enough to find in a lot of the reporting). But prior to publication we decided to pull it out. We’re not the most widely-read publication on the internet. Still, having one less point of access might slow someone’s ability to find the design, and that always could make a difference.

We think it’s inevitable there will yet be an attempt to regulate these gun designs, perhaps even by Trump.

That’s because he may be underestimating the potential economic impact of his administration’s new policy. Trump has been working long and hard to loosen restrictions on arms sales overseas. And as we’ve said a bunch of times, Trump needs increased business for U.S. arms makers to sustain the job growth he’s promised in the U.S. The 3D printed guns may not be ready yet for mass production. They may not yet be reliable enough. They may not yet be cheap enough. But things on the internet always move much faster than in real life.

So what’s going to happen when the overseas governments Trump was counting on to buy weapons suddenly find they can print them on their own, no strings attached? Especially when it becomes economically feasible to do so? Plus now they need more guns than they thought because their political opponents also have easier access to weapons?.

But by then it’ll be way too late.

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