Majority of Americans Would Ban 3D-Printing Guns at Home (Fat Chance!)

3D-printed Liberator handgunDefense DistributedIn results that may signal some discomfort with the enormous DIY promise of 3D printing and similar home-manufacturing technologies, a new Reason-Rupe poll finds that an otherwise gun control-weary American public thinks owners of 3D printers ought not be allowed to make their own guns or gun parts. Of course, implementing such a restrictive policy might be tad more difficult than measuring popular preferences.

First of all, Americans widely believe that ownership of 3D printers themselves should be unrestricted. The national Reason-Rupe telephone poll of 1,003 Americans asked:

Some Americans own 3-D printers, which can make a variety of plastic objects. Do you think Americans should or should not be allowed to use this technology in their own homes?

  • Should 62%
  • Should not 29%
  • Don’t Know/Refused (Vol.) 9%
  • Total 100%

But, specific controversial uses are another matter. Just those who agree that Americans should be allowed to own 3D printers were then asked:

3-D printers can be used to make guns or gun parts. Do you think Americans should or should not be allowed to print their own guns or gun parts in their own homes?

  • Should 44%
  • Should not 53%
  • Don’t Know/Refused (Vol.) 4%
  • Total 100%

So, even among people who think 3D printers should be allowed for personal use, just 44 percent say printing 3D guns or gun parts should be allowed.

However, there's little evidence that this 3D printed gun leeriness is part of a larger trend supporting restrictive firearms legislation. In fact, poll respondents seem sick of the issue in general, and ready for politicians to move on to something else. Reason-Rupe asked:

As you may know, the U.S. Senate recently voted down gun control legislation. Do you think the Senate should debate and vote on gun control legislation again or should the Senate move on to other issues?

  • Vote on gun control legislation again 33%
  • Move on to other issues 62%
  • Both (Vol.) 1%
  • Neither (Vol.) <1%
  • Don’t Know/Refused (Vol.) 3%
  • Total 100%

While it's discouraging to both techno-enthusiasts and supporters of the right to self-defense that a majority of Americans favor restricting a specific use of 3D printers, there's no obvious path for implementing such a policy. While 62 percent support for permitting private ownership of 3D printers strikes me as surprisingly low (what would the results be for a similar question regarding photocopiers or drill presses?), that may well represent an element of discomfort with new technology that colors the overall results — and it's still overwhelming support for private ownership of 3D printers. And there's no practical way of limiting the use of the technology one it's in private hands.

Supporters of restrictions, such as Slate's Farhad Manjoo, have pointed to the technology that limits DVD players to DVDs from a specified region, or the technology that's supposed to prevent photocopiers, printers and graphics software from replicating U.S. currency, as examples to follow for 3D printers. But those controls are easier to implement — DVD players look for specific region markers, and currency comes with easily recognizable, two-dimensional images and tiny markers — and are still widely bypassed with ease. They're so easily bypassed, that 60 percent of counterfeit U.S. currency recovered in recent years was produced on ink-jet printers.

Now, how well would comparable software work to prevent the production of firearm designs that have yet to be created for 3D printers? How would such software reliably distinguish between guns and hose nozzles or mechanical replacement parts? And what if the designers were clever enough to break the file into two parts that together produced the components for a finished gun?

The fact of the matter is, no effective way exists of restricting the use of 3D printers. For those of us who believe that the home printing of firearms is only one aspect of the liberating power of decentralized manufacturing, it's very reassuring to know that the public will have long opportunity to get over its technophobia, and become accustomed to the idea that friends and neighbors might occasionally make a pistol at home with more ease than in the past, along with all of the other cool, prosperity-enhancing things they'll create with this new technology.

In the unlikely case that opinion further sours ... Well, the RepRap project is developing 3D printers that can make more 3D printers that can make anything you want. It would be nice if the public were better attuned to the future. But the future is already here to stay.

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  • Ken Shultz||

    "Of course, implementing such a restrictive policy might be tad more difficult than measuring popular preferences."

    Utter futility hasn't stopped the Drug War, the War in Afghanistan, illegal immigration, or keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons, so why not add the utter futility of prohibiting people from printing things at home into the mix?

    Lean forward!

  • ||

    Makes me wonder if my Pa could make a gun with his milling machine. I bet he could. And the milling machine can work with metal, not just plastic.

  • WTF||

    Yup. Guns are pretty simple to make with a a little knowledge and some common machine shop equipment.

  • Tim||

    I've seen a shotgun made out of water pipe, doorbolts and springs.

  • A Mathematician||

    Here is one made from less http://youtu.be/7Va87gB_4AI

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    So is moonshine.

    Jus' sayin'

  • Brandon||

    So is weed.So is opium. So are most things that idiots want to ban. Except cocaine. That's pretty hard.

  • some guy||

    But if you mass produce it you can certainly bring the costs down (like any other chemical).

  • ||

    I suppose if dudes in hovels in Pakistan can build AKs and ARs by hand, a milling machine oughta be able to do the job.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I believe 3d printers can use metal, as well. I think it's just more expensive and complicated.

    I suppose it would be like having a soldering tool for a printer head.

  • ||

    Just upwards of $650k plus about $600/kg for the powdered metal.

  • Redmanfms||

    I milled a 1911 frame and slide with a used manual Bridgeport vertical mill w/ digital readout that I bought for less than $5,000.

    All 3D printers do is make the process of making objects less skill intensive (THAT'S the revolution). Machining isn't easy work. It takes years to master and one has to have a pretty good grasp of a fairly large number of subjects. Plus the machines required to machine a complete firearm from bar/round stock are pretty big.

    OTOH, any asshole with 6 months of programming experience can AutoCAD and potentially "print" a firearm on a machine that can be put together for less than $2,000 and fits on side table. Since programming plans will be impossible for the control freaks to keep out of "the wind" most people won't even need programming experience.

  • np||

    3D printing or additive manufacturing, which includes laser sintering for 3D printing of metals, has the ability to do things that subtractive manufacturing (CNC, machining, milling, etc) can't.

    You can print a continuous surface, enclosed solid, with chambers and complex patterns within, that you cannot do with CNC or subtractive manufacturing in general. You'd have to mill/cut/machine out the various pieces and fit them together. Welding does not go deep enough and so is impossible to create anything equivalent, when compared to designs that take advantage of this aspect of additive manufacturing.

  • ||

    My Pa uses a computer (software he wrote hisself) to create all his forms for the machine. NOt to say there's not still skill involved, but his process is pretty automated once he gets everything set up. He mass-produces a product he invented in his little basement workshop.

  • anon||

    Makes me wonder if my Pa could make a gun with his milling machine.

    Making a gun is terribly simple. If you just want something that goes "bang" and slings a projectile in a general direction at a very high velocity, you probably have the tools and hardware necessary in your house.

    Rifling on the other hand is more difficult. Making an accurate firearm is more of an art than smithing.

  • some guy||

    Smilin' Joe Biden says we don't need rifling.

  • ||

    [i]Supporters of restrictions, such as Slate's Farhad Manjoo, [/i]

    What does Nearhas Girlmooslim think?

    Hey-yo!

  • ||

    Also, message board tags do not work. Freedom!

  • $park¥||

    They work fine, you just need to use the right ones.

  • ||

    Try HTML.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yup

  • tarran||

    Dude, use HTML, not BB-Code or whatever primitive system you are used to. ;)

  • ||

    10 CLS
    20 PRINT "Blow Me"
    30 END

  • tarran||

    Over the weekend I was cleaning out a closet, and I found all my cassettes containing TRS-80 Color Computer basic programs - all neatly labeled and organized.

    My kids looked at them with absolute confusion, and I realized that they don't even know what audio cassettes are! :D

  • sarcasmic||

    What about printing Star Wars action figures? Or dildos? Or dildos with Darth Vader's head?

  • $park¥||

    Let me guess, you're asking for a "friend."

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. Her name is Ke$ha.

  • $park¥||

    Yeah right, Ke$ha is not into old dudes.

  • sarcasmic||

    Well she is into dildos with the heads of action figures, dipped in her own urine.

  • Brandon||

    Aren't all dildos sort of dipped in your own urine if you think about it?

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    Only if you know nothing about female anatomy.

  • sarcasmic||

    Only if you know nothing about female anatomy.

    It's not nice to pick on virgins. I mean, you were a virgin once.

  • Fluffy||

    Aren't we supposed to pretend that Jesus is a virgin always?

  • Loki||

    Only if you know nothing about female anatomy

    Given the number of Star Trek/ Wars/ general Sci-Fi fans post here that's always a possibility.

    There was a long tabletop RPG discussion thread in Morning Links today. Just sayin'.

  • anon||

    George Lucas Disney will sue your ass so quick.

  • Tim||

    The danger of home printer's is that ten years out, when all of the cheap crap we were importing from China is being printed at home, what will happen to China?

  • tarran||

    They'll be printing stuff for Chinese consumption, I guess.

  • Tim||

    It takes real nuance to make a squirt gun that works ten times and then stops working forever.

  • kinnath||

    Anyone can make good beer, wine, or mead at home, but few do.

    There will always be a market for items of convenience.

  • SweatingGin||

    Some Americans own 3-D printers, which can make a variety of plastic objects. Do you think Americans should or should not be allowed to use this technology in their own homes?

    Should 62%
    Should not 29%

    That 29% seems... scarily high.

    Is it just gun control dead-enders who realize 3d printers mean the end of gun control? Or is it people who figure there needs to be a gatekeeper for technology? Luddites? That which is not mandatory is forbidden?

    I'd love to figure out just who that group is.

  • PapayaSF||

    This is the group I want to know:

    Do you think the Senate should debate and vote on gun control legislation again or should the Senate move on to other issues?
    Neither (Vol.) <1%

    Now that's gridlock!

  • ||

    My thoughts exactly. Loved this voluntary response!

  • ||

    Yeah, exactly. "First of all, Americans widely believe that ownership of 3D printers themselves should be unrestricted." -- not that widely.

  • Ken Shultz||

    New technology scares a lot of people.

    I'd guess that more than 30% don't even know what 3d printing is--and a lot of people are afraid of anything they don't understand.

    Some of them probably think their kids are going to want one for Christmas, and they're afraid they're going to have to figure out how to hook it up to a TV.

  • anon||

    I'd guess that more than 30% don't even know what 3d printing is--and a lot of people are afraid of anything they don't understand.

    My first bet would be that at least 30% were too stupid to understand the fucking question.

    Seriously, people are getting dumber.

  • ||

    There have been a lot of dumb people for a long time. The ability to ask a large number of people questions about anything has increased tremendously. So maybe the dumb people are just more evident to everyone else. They used to just drool at home among their equally dumb relatives. Now they are communicating their stupidity all the time in many ways.

    Was this is a land-line based poll? Because the concentration of simpleton may be higher for people who have a land-line and no caller ID.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Twenty-nine percent of respondents think people in their homes should be prohibited from even using a 3D printer for anything? What the fuck?

  • SweatingGin||

    A simple table saw and a band saw and a few routers were enough tools for my grandfather to use for his model railroad as he drank himself into a stupor every night, they should be good enough for kids these days, too!

  • anon||

    You could use it to create evil darth vader headed dildos, and that would be against TEH LORD'S WILL!

  • General Butt Naked||

    Found a guy printing the liberator on youtube.

    Here's part 5 (frame half), you can find the other parts. It's not complete yet.

  • Fluffy||

    If you're confused about that 29%, you have to remember that a large percentage of the American population doesn't know how to make anything using anything.

    To them, homes are places you sleep in, and where you keep the stuff that you bought that other people made.

    It's not the technology that puts them off, it's the concept of an individual person making something. It's utterly alien to them, and more than a little disturbing.

    Also, the question contains the word "plastic". So I'm sure there's a non-zero number in there that thinks that no one should ever have anything made out of plastic, ever, so they voted No. (Most of those people would be dead within 24 hours if all the plastic in their lives disappeared right this instant, but they don't care about that. Trees, doncha know.)

  • Paul.||

    Should not 29%

    Jesus H. Christ on a saltine cracker... who are the 30% of Americans who don't think you have a right to make stuff in your own home?

    Where did my country go?

  • Loki||

    Do you think the Senate should debate and vote on gun control legislation again or should the Senate move on to other issues?

    ...
    Neither (Vol.) [less than (fuck you squirrels)]1%

    I think I like that answer the best. "Just sit there with your thumbs up your asses and try not to drool on yourselves."

  • Spartacus||

    This whole thing is silly. They would never allow 3D printers and then restrict specific uses. That would be like trying to make it illegal to smoke weed with a coke can.

  • Outside the Box||

    well, that *is* illegal...

  • CE||

    But I thought they were all for "locally grown" when it comes to produce, and "hometown business" when it comes to retail. Why are guns different? Think of the carbon emissions that will be saved by not having to ship guns to everyone who wants one.

  • Paul.||

    Now, how well would comparable software work to prevent the production of firearm designs that have yet to be created for 3D printers?

    1. Law: All 3d printers must be manufactured to be connected to the internet to operate. The printer will not print until it makes a successful connection with government servers.

    2. Law: When something is printed, a facsimile is transmitted to a government database with a unique owner ID. Those plans will be reviewed by an ATF agent who will determine if the aggregate of items you've printed could amount to a firearm.

    3. Law: Any attempt to override or circumvent these restrictions on the printer are punishable with a $250,000, 10 years in prison or both.

    4. Law: Owners of 3d printing technology will be treated like FFL dealers. You will be subject to spot inspections and audits where you must be able to show records of all objects printed and their use and destination.

    5. Iron Law: Never underestimate the government's ability to ban or regulate something through sheer force of will.

    6. Law: Fuck you, that's why.

  • Jerryskids||

    Magnetrons are devices designed to produce radiation at wavelengths many times longer than x-rays or even deadly gamma rays. Do you think Americans should or should not be allowed to use magnetrons in their own homes?

  • Paul.||

    Given what the result of Magnetron Cooking produces, I'd say No.

  • Paul.||

    However, there's a preaty neato science experiment you can do in your home with a magnetron using quartered grapes which produce plasma when placed in the dead center of the Magnetron Chamber!

    Science!

  • anon||

    I would love to see the results of that survey, and then fucking laugh my ass off when these dumb fucks talk their congressmen into banning microwaves (probably the only way they can cook food).

  • ||

    3,500 Americans die every year from a colorless, odorless chemical compound we let into our homes every day. When will we wake up and ban this substance before more people die from it?

    The dreaded dihydrogen monoxide kills indiscriminately, sometimes with little warning. Even when it doesn't harm us directly, it acts as a breeding ground for deadly germs and disease carrying insects.

    If you regularly transport your children to and from youth sporting events, you should be especially concerned. Please learn the facts and contact your Congressperson right away!

    http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

  • Daily Beatings||

    Two words, open source. You can't restrict what is readily available for everyone to use and modify as they see fit. Open source started in the binary world and is now transcending into the physical.

    3D printing is on par with other disruptive technologies that shift the concentration of power from the hands of the elites. In reality the powers to be are only interested in the status quo and will use any "think of the children" excuse to restrict the technology to the unwashed masses.

    It's gong to be very interesting to watch the side show of regulation attempts disintegrate into nothing more than chest pounding and foot stomping. John Gilmore's famous quote that the "net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it" is so applicable here.

  • LilDebbie||

    May I propose the following Reason-Rupe poll in order to put these 2nd Amendment polls in context:

    Do you think Americans should be fined for saying the word "nigger" in public?

    I think the results will depress you!

  • Outside the Box||

    "Do you think Americans should or should not be allowed to print their own guns or gun parts in their own homes?"

    I really think one thing libertarians could do is to change the framing of questions like this. *NO* legislation or state/government action is going to "not allow" people to print their own guns; the state doesn't actually try to *stop* something from happening. They just punish people afterwards.

    The evil of state action isn't the rules, it's the *enforcement mechanisms*.

    By saying "this law will or will not allow people to do X", we give the state a pass for their true evil: that if you do something against their rules, they will kidnap and cage you like a fucking rat.

    Instead of framing something like "should X be allowed?", we should be explicit:

    "If a person does X, do you favor agents of the state kidnapping and caging him or her like a rat afterwards?" We need to stress that state action does not *prevent* anything. We need to stress that state action is not a suggestion, not a sharing of best practices across communities, but a *violent threat*.

    For too long we libertarians have tried to justify libertarianism to the masses in terms of property rights, which are too esoteric and abstract for the average person to really see the evil in. We need to change our rhetoric to focus on *violence*. It is not hard to explain that jail is a vile act of violence, no different than that sociopath in Cleveland who locked women in his attic for years.

  • CZmacure||

    Staples stores have recently started carrying 3D printers, a sure sign that the prices are coming down and that it will soon become commonplace. As more stores start carrying these products (as long as the 3D printing patent trolls don't win) it will be increasingly harder to believe you can control things like 3D printed guns. The plans themselves are electronic and once released to the Internet will be impossible to stop their spread.

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