Ruth: The danger of cranking out guns by 3-D printer

Associated Press
Cody Wilson holds what the pistol completely made on a 3-D-printer at his home in Austin, Texas.
Associated Press Cody Wilson holds what the pistol completely made on a 3-D-printer at his home in Austin, Texas.
Published August 6 2018
Updated August 9 2018

This was probably inevitable.

In manís ongoing pursuit to make it easier to kill each another, it was only a matter of time before technology would emerge to efficiently crank out guns by way of a 3-D printer.

Now thereís the perfect Christmas stocking-stuffer for you. Are you beginning to get the feeling "Saturday Night Liveís" seedy toy salesman Irwin Mainway will start peddling Bag-O-3-D Death? Fun for the whole family.

A legal battle is afoot to prevent a Texas man, Cody Wilson, from uploading the technical specifications to create almost impossible to detect 3-D plastic weapons on the internet. An Obama administration ruling had prevented Wilson from distributing his 3-D gun specifications, which argued the technology violated export laws banning the distribution of weapons. Seems reasonable.

But that decision was recently reversed by President Donald Trumpís State Department, which also paid Wilson a $40,000 settlement as sort of an apology for annoying him. Wilson is still tied up in court, because a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order and eight attorneys general have filed a lawsuit to stop the uploading of the 3-D gun specifications. But we can probably deduce how all this will eventually turn out.

This is America, after all ó the land of the body bag.

The libertarian Wilson has argued the effort to stymie his desire to make guns even more accessible than they are now is grounded both in his First and Second Amendment rights. What Wilson is actually attempting to accomplish is to make it easier to obtain an unregistered, undetectable, untraceable firearm without going through the most cursory background check.

Youíll hardly be shocked to know the National Rifle Associationís flack, Dana Loesch, dismissed concerns that the potential of plastic guns seeping into society is problematic. She lauded Wilsonís 3-D gun technology as representing "freedom and innovation." Some supporters of Wilson have suggested the advent of 3-D firearms presents a golden opportunity to create new technologies to detect them at airports, schools and other public locations. How comforting.

At the moment, Wilsonís 3-D handgun, dubbed "The Liberator," is capable of only firing a single bullet. But it probably wonít take too very long before 3-D printers will be able to produce an array of firearms including multi-capacity assault rifles without an iota of accountability.

Indeed, Wilsonís legal wrangling is for all practical purposes moot. He seized on the brief window of opportunity between the settling of the State Department ban on July 27 and the federal restraining order on Aug. 1
to post his 3-D gun design on the internet, which has been downloaded thousands of times. So in theory, it is entirely likely all manner of terrorist organizations, drug cartels, numerous hate groups and your garden variety crazy person have just been handed the wherewithal to create their own ghost arsenals.

Donít we already have plenty of guns in the United States? We now need not only more firearms, but guns some unhinged people can literally produce off a machine with zero scrutiny?

We have long admired the entrepreneur, the inventor who created the better mousetrap.

The pity is there is no 3-D printer to create a more civilized society. Not enough plastic in the world for that.