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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Featured, Guns, Law, Science & Technology | 11 comments

New Airport Security Threat? 3 D Plastic Guns

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The good news: modern technology has advanced to a point where someone can use a 3 D printer and make something out of plastic. The bad news: modern technology has advanced to a point where someone can sue a 3 D printer and make a gun out of plastic, which could pose a security threat a places like airport.

A Texas company is set to release blueprints for making a plastic gun with a 3-D printer — a development Sen. Chuck Schumer called “stomach-churning” Sunday.

Defense Distributed, a collective of gun access advocates headed by self-described “free-market anarchist” Cody Wilson, has announced it made such an untraceable gun with the new plastic-making technology. The nonprofit Texas group intends to post blueprints for “The Liberator” (pictured) online this week.

The Liberator may look like a toy, but “this gun can fire regular bullets,” Schumer said, calling for legislation outlawing the technology’s weapons potential.

The bill was drafted by Rep. Steve Israel (D-L.I.).

Will the NRA allow a law like that? They call the (pardon the expression,,) shots in Congress. Would any law like that be a concern because it restricts freedom on guns? Or will this be on the NRA won’t stridently oppose, since it involves guns people make out of plastic which could compete with the gun industry and mean less revenue for gun companies?

“Security checkpoints, background checks and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print their own plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser,” Israel said in a statement.

To Schumer, the ramifications of make-your-own untraceable and undetectable weapons are “stomach-churning.”

“Now anyone, a terrorist, someone who is mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon, can essentially open a gun factory in their garage,” Schumer said. “It must be stopped.”

According to the New York Daily News, its an easy process: you simply buy a printer for $1,000 print out the pieces, get the blueprint on how to assemble it, and put it together.

Providing security that works is harder. Especially with plastic guns.

FOOTNOTE: It is fascinating, though — and you can anticipate some people trying to make a plastic gun because it’s so fascinating.

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  • adelinesdad

    Gun advocates claim that gun control laws don’t work because criminals don’t obey them. They miss the point that by making something illegal, you don’t just criminalize it but also make it harder to do if it involves cooperation from others, which acquiring a gun usually does. In this case, however, their point stands. Unless 3D printers themselves are made illegal, how exactly do you stop a criminal from doing this? By blocking the websites that distribute the blueprint? Good luck with that.

    I think technology will always be one step ahead of security efforts, in a free society. Even if we manage to contain this threat, what will the next undetectable threat be? This underscores the need to focus on people, not tools. Being able to identify people who are predisposed to commit violence and prevent it is a very difficult problem. How do you differentiate between a loner who wouldn’t hurt a fly from one who has pent up rage? Between a religious extremist who is extreme only in his devotion, and a future terrorist? What is it about a culture, a person’s environment, and/or personal biology or temperament that causes someone to proceed down a violent path? These are really tough problems that will require a lot of smart people doing a lot of good research. Some might call it hopeless, but I think people underestimate our ingenuity. We understand how atoms work, how to blast ourselves out into space, and countless other things that would be deemed unknowable centuries or even decades ago. With some time and effort, why can’t we predict, like we predict the weather, when someone will turn violent?

    And, to add more context, it should be noted that we live in relatively peaceful times. Threats to our lives and safety usually don’t come from violence. Why we don’t place as much urgency on other threats is a question worth pondering.

  • Rambie

    Throwing out FUD again? The law they want to renew is the 1988 “Non-detectable weapons” law that makes it illegal to produce weapons that can not be detected in a metal detector. They do not want to outlaw 3D printers nor the CAD aka “blueprint” files to make 3D printed guns.

    If the litmus test to passing a law is, “Well, criminals won’t follow the law anyway!” then we’ve become a very sad society indeed.

  • Jim Satterfield

    Of course the person behind the project is a law student who apparently claims to be part of the “Liberty Movement” and approves of anarchists. Why do I think of 1914?

  • ordinarysparrow

    Walmart is so going to love this…
    Mass market of cheap guns by your neighborhood supplier…

  • zephyr

    I think technology will always be one step ahead of security efforts

    That goes to the human propensity to reach beyond our grasp. Cleverness and intelligence aren’t the same thing imo. As for the 3D printed gun and the motive behind it? I can’t even begin to describe how backward and wrong this feels. The rest of the world must think we are insane – probably beginning with Canada and picking up steam fast.

  • adelinesdad


    I didn’t say that we shouldn’t have a law against undetectable weapons. I’m only questioning their effectiveness and whether our focus should be on other efforts. I suppose the law would be useful in one-off cases where law enforcement becomes aware of someone possessing the prohibited item, in which case they can intervene before the person even attempts to enter a secure area. However, my point is that this isn’t likely to be much of a deterrent given that the item is undetectable, by definition.

    (As an aside, the nydailnews link implies that these items, if made entirely of plastic, would already be illegal. I don’t know if that’s right, but if so then what new law is being proposed?)

    Also, I was pretty clear that my “Well, criminals won’t follow the law anyway!” doesn’t apply to all gun control laws. However, it does apply in this case since in this case there are no obstacles that can reasonably be placed in the way of a criminal from printing a gun. But, to reiterate, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the law, but that we should look at other options which might be more effective.

  • SteveK

    I wasn’t going to comment in this thread, I don’t like guns of any style but a friend asked what good would a plastic gun be without bullets…

    He had a good point because unless you’re shooting plastic bullets you are still not going to get through security.

  • ShannonLeee

    We do bioprinting at my institute. The technology is the future of medicine and general production imho. Printing a gun, on a plane, would not exactly be an unnoticeable process. Getting a printer through security would also be an interesting task.

    The bigger problem is the use of these gun in every day life. An untraceable gun that can be easily destroyed is not good for law enforcement.

    Although I do like the fact that gun manufactures will end up losing on this one. Think about it… why would I buy a gun when my friend down the street can print one for me… and cheap.

    localizing gun production, while dangerous, will rip the heart out of the gun industry.

  • dduck

    IMHO, this is an overblown problem. Terrorists have moved on to bombs and the average person/crook can get a real gun cheaply by stealing it or buying a cheap model. Either way the all metal gun with multiple rounds will be around for a long time.

  • adelinesdad

    SK, I figure it’s much easier to smuggle a bullet into a secure area than a gun. But your point stands.

    SL, the issue is that the gun can be made out of plastic and apparently therefore undetectable. I gather that gun manufacturers are prohibited from doing that. You don’t need to smuggle a printer on board.

    dduck, the issue here isn’t access to guns but access to undetectable guns. I agree with you that this gun seems much inferior in many ways to manufactured guns which I don’t think will see a dent, which underscores the point that this is really only useful for those who want to conceal them in restricted areas (aka “the wrong people”), though I’m sure plenty of people will make them for the novelty of it.

  • dduck

    There will be a new technology (big walk-through machine) and/or plastic-sniffing dogs to further bloat Homeland Security.

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