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To Print Or Not To Print – 3D Gun Printing

My response to 3D technology could be likened to Marty Mcfly’s reaction when the 3D hologram shark in a 2015 Jaws 19 advertisement attacks him. Whether I’m watching Na’vi roaming around Pandora or Tupac live at Coachella, 3D digital design thrills my senses and I am excited by the seemingly infinite potential for this technology to grow. One such example, which has been getting a big response both critically and among consumers, is 3D printing.

The 3D printing process involves creating a solid three-dimensional object from a Computer Aided Design (CAD) using a materials printer. There is no doubt that this is outstanding technology but, as it develops further, it is becoming apparent that there are a host of new ethical dilemmas determining what we should and should not print using 3D technology. The issue that polarises people on both sides of this debate is that of 3D gun printing.

Cody R. Wilson manufactures parts for firearms from his own home using this technology. His company, Defence Distributed, now sells and transports pieces for guns. Wilson has also created a website to host a series of gun related files for weapon enthusiasts that were largely removed from other sites after the events in Newtown in late 2012.

Through Defence Distributed, Wilson is trying to end the gun control debate by “proving a point” about government regulation in general. According to Wilson, his project is “more radical” than simply fighting for the Second Amendment. He believes that he is fighting against a larger political problem. “There’s no evidence of a political program anymore in the world. In America, there aren’t even genuine politics. Barak Obama and Mitt Romney [are both] globalist neoliberals,” he has stated.

So in order to put his radical political views forward, Wilson prints gun parts, which begs the question: in the context of a nation plagued with gun hysteria, how will this technology impact on gun-control laws, if at all? While Wilson has a federal firearms license and is therefore acting within the legal framework in the U.S, this remains a controversial issue. The matter of gun control has certainly received more attention in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy and, for many people, what Wilson is doing is a frightening concept.

However, this gun-obsessed political and cultural ecosystem may be the perfect environment for Wilson and others like him to target their ideal market (no pun intended): those rebelling against gun prohibition. “People like that message [of preserving firearms on the internet]. Despite this whole idea of democratic consensus, there are a lot of people who’re interested. We get donations every day”, Wilson says.

There is no doubt that 3D printing is changing our modern technological landscape, but when guns are involved, it will always be a sensitive issue. Personally, I find the possibility of backyard gun manufacturing a disturbing notion, particularly as this technology becomes more and more accessible.

But as the dispute about 3D printed gun parts continues to thrive and there are parties on both sides of the spectrum, we have to wonder whether perhaps we should put this overwhelming debate to one side for now and turn our heads to more concerning technological issues, like when the first Hoverboard will be invented.

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