Cody Wilson

The Scaremongering Over 3D Guns Has Little to Do With Reality

It's never been illegal to make your own firearms.


The newest bugaboo of the gun control crowd is the bloodcurdling "3D printer gun"—or, as anti-gun activist Alyssa Milano called it, "downloadable death." Reporters at CNN now ask, "3D guns: Untraceable, undetectable and unstoppable?" Even President Donald Trump tweeted that he's "looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn't seem to make much sense!"

It makes plenty of sense.

First of all, 3D plastic guns aren't being sold to the public. Neither are "downloadable firearms" or "ghost guns." These things don't exist. Data, code, and information are being sold to the public. There is no magical contraption that creates a new gun on demand. Sorry.

Even if such a machine existed, however, the Trump administration hasn't suddenly begun "allowing" Americans to fabricate guns in the comfort of their homes as so many stories have intimated. It's never been illegal to make your own firearms in the first place.

The pretext for this freakout is news that the State Department reached a settlement with Cody Wilson and his company, Defense Distributed, which offered digital designs for 3D printed guns, not guns. The Obama administration had maintained that the company's printer code violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which had little to do with a law-abiding hobbyist milling a lower receiver for a commercially popular civilian firearm in his suburban Pennsylvania garage.

Milano may not be aware that Americans have been building their own three-dimensional guns since before the Revolution. Today life has become far more convenient, and schematics that offer hobbyists plans for assembly or creation of firearms can be found across the internet. Although people might need a high degree of proficiency to pull off making one, they certainly don't need a 3D printer. One seven-part video on YouTube features an industrious fellow turning hundreds of cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon into an AR-15.

Still, Milano contends that the administration's decision now means that "felons, domestic abusers, terrorists, those adjudicated too mentally ill to own guns and any other person unable to legally purchase firearms will be able to print one at home."

Guess what. If you're unable to legally purchase firearms, you are already prohibited from making a gun in your home, just as you are prohibited from buying a gun through a straw purchase or stealing one from your neighbor or smuggling one into the country. That's settled law. Good work.

Censoring code on the internet simply because you find guns objectionable, though, is another story. As Wilson told The Washington Post, code "is the essence of expression. It meets all the requirements of speech—it's artistic and political, you can manipulate it, and it needs human involvement to become other things." How can the state ban the transfer of knowledge used to help someone engage in an activity that is completely legal? Scratch that—to engage in an activity that is constitutionally protected?

You might also wonder why criminals would bother spending thousands of dollars to create a one-shot plastic gun (that probably wouldn't work) when they can walk into a store and buy a reliable shotgun for a few hundred dollars or procure a weapon illegally for far less?

Well, I'm assured by Milano that these 3D-printed plastic guns are undetectable and easy to make. Neither of those things is true. It's already illegal for Americans to possess weapons that are undetectable by metal detectors (even if metal detectors aren't used at airports anymore). So don't make one. But the Defense Distributed plans for a complete AR-15 include 72 parts, some of which are composed of metal to prevent catastrophic malfunctions. Is a mastermind criminal going to 3D-print or mill all those parts himself, a task that requires not only considerable knowledge, skill, and experience but also a costly printer and custom machine shop? This technology has been available for years. Has there been a crime wave of undetectable AR-15s?

What Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wants to do is pass legislation that curtails the rights of law-abiding citizens by fearmongering over a settlement that had nothing to do with the legality of homemade guns in the first place. As always, gun restrictionists are interested in adopting incremental steps toward more obstructive gun laws. In this case, they are aiming to limit hobbyist manufacturing in general.

The entire case against 3D guns is propelled by the notion, normalized over many years, that access to firearms is problematic, even though the presence of guns doesn't equate to increased violence. And who knows? Perhaps one day, as machines evolve and become more reliable and powerful, it won't be prohibitively expensive for the average law-abiding person to make his own AR-15. Whether that would be a positive or a negative development is debatable. But gun control activists are trying to dictate what that future looks like now.

NEXT: Movie Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me

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  1. Let’s see. Spend a grand or more on a 3D printer to make plastic guns that won’t last but for a few rounds, or spend a couple hundred on a metal gun through a private two-party sale without a background check. Decisions decisions…

    1. The “Liberator” is never going to be a good gun, I don’t think, no matter how good 3D plastic printing ever gets.

      But making a legitimate AR-15 lower receiver seems doable.

      1. 80% complete AR lowers are inexpensive and can be completed with basic tools, a little skill, and time.

    2. “Let’s see. Spend a grand or more on a 3D printer to make plastic guns that won’t last but for a few rounds, or spend a couple hundred on a metal gun through a private two-party sale without a background check. Decisions decisions…”

      You say this as if you don’t know that gun control advocates want to do away with those private two-party sales without background checks. Haven’t you heard them calling for “universal” background checks?

      1. Doesn’t matter what the advocates want… …two-party sales have always been legal. I think Sarc is smart enough to understand the current standing of the gun control issue.

        Red Herring Alert!

  2. Well there isn’t much rationality amongst gun control freaks to begin with.

  3. Yawn. Call me when I can get 3D versions of those ’90s movies where Milano shows her tit-tays.

  4. Milano makes perfect sense in this scenario, a bunch of people acting like they know what they’re talking about, acting outraged, acting concerned, acting like they have a simple plan to fix things. Why not get Hollywood has-beens involved in politics? They’re better actors than the ones we have now.

    1. What is the deal with Americans accepting actors as experts and truth tellers on everything? We are taking about a profession made up of people who are paid to pretend to be someone they are not. WTF?

  5. During the Georgia special election, Alyssa Milano was driving people to the polls. I wish I lived in that district so I could said that I ‘got a ride from Alyssa MIlano in her car’ and discussed in length about how great Libertarianism is.
    Alyssa Milano drives voters to polling place

    1. No regrets; looks like you’d actually have been getting a ride in Chris Gorham’s car. Which makes sense; I don’t think campaigns send women–let alone celebrity sex symbol women–out alone to drive strange voters.

  6. Any sufficiently high level of technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    Pity that for these fools, basic manufacturing techniques count as ‘sufficiently high.’
    I’ll bet they were confused by fax machines, too.

    1. Hell they were confused by printers!

  7. The hilarious part of this entire debate is how is providing plans to make a 3D printed gun any different than buying a copy of the Anarchist’s cookbook? In addition, just because something is possible, that does not make it practical. As other post points out, these are one shot guns. A low power 9mm round using 5.3 grains of powder produces an internal pressure of 23,100 PSI in the barrel. In addition, the ignition temp of gunpowder is 800 degrees. 3D printers typically use ABS plastic which melts at 221 degrees. Do you see a problem, folks?

    1. To be fair, there are methods that layer other material including metals.
      IMHO 3D printing is being used for obfuscating the real target which is the other data files for small firearm parts being made with small CNC machines.

  8. You do know that the thousands of people who get plastic guns will lead to billions of intrusive pat-down searches for encounters at airports, courthouses, etc., right??

  9. Any of you gun engineers out there, help me with this…

    It’s my understanding that muzzle peak pressures are in the vicinity of 35,000 PSI. How the heck does plastic contain 35,000 PSI?

    1. Not very well. That’s why you have an inch thick barrel for a .22lr pistol.

      A plastic receiver is fine as long as the bolt, chamber, and barrel are steel. Still a lot more breakable than an aluminum receiver.

  10. Maybe it has little to do with reality, but like Ayn rand once intoned, “There’s always a reason for nonsense. If something doesn’t make sense, as what it accomplishes.”

    The 3-D controversy is just that. It allows demodonkey jackasses wedded to controlling my guns with their guns to bray and bray and bray: “Crazy people will now be able to make their own guns by pressing the PRINT button!”

    Naturally, the next line is, “And, it’s all the fault of the gun lobby, the NRA, and those pesky Republicans!”

    Indeed, where else could that squirrel of an attorney general for Washington have been able to grab such a national platform from which to denounce Cody Wilson’s “outrageous” behavior?

    It’s election season in America, and the sap is running.

  11. “…ask what it accomplishes.”

  12. You can cast a dozen AR lowers in the time it takes to print one, and they cost a couple of bucks each.

    Google “fruity ghost”.

    1. The real target is Cody’s files for small CNC finishing of firearm parts, especially AR lowers.

  13. If you know anything about guns and what’s going on, you know that there is a thriving “do it yourself” gun business. What you also know is it has absolutely nothing to do with 3D printing. 80% guns are blocks of aluminum partially milled in a factory but not complete enough to be called a firearm. The purchaser gets the unfinished piece along with detailed instructions on how to remove the remaining bits of metal and drill holes in appropriate spots. In addition, the buyer often has the opportunity to purchase an accompanying kit that contains all the parts needed to assemble a quality, working firearm. Kits exist for both pistols and rifles including the dreaded AR-15. The completed weapon has no serial number and is, therefore, untraceable. You would think the gunphobes would be after 80% sales, but no, they choose instead 3D printed plastic guns that are single shot, unreliable and dangerous.

    1. Exactly. The real target is the data files for small CNC machines that produce/finish small firearm parts like the 80% complete lowers especially when one considers that they can’t ban the CNC machines themselves.

    2. and those same gunphobes are responsible for the “red flag laws” that convict you without warrants and trials. Making a firearm is not against the law or hasn’t been since the invention of firearms. But now you can be arrested and your property confiscated because someone you ticked off reported you as a danger to yourself or others. Just read some of the laws dreamed up by the anti Constitution, anti Bill of Rights leftist, liberal loons that comprise the Kaliforiastan legislature. Not just the headline but the whole thing.

  14. Poor Milano,
    Still suffering from CRIS (Cranial-Rectal Inversion Syndrome) and can’t pull her head out!

  15. i have always, at least since the hulabaloo about “3d guns”, wondered why For some reason gun groups and gun owners are not trumpeting the fact that it is not ILLEGAL to make a firearm. the ONLY people who are actively making this an issue is the same socialist/progressive anti Constitution, anti Bill of Rights liberal nazis known as democrats, who will not punish the 80% of criminal activity who are “PROTECTED MINORITIES”. they just decided to punish law abiding people. It just seems that the USA has decided to follow the addlepated laws passed in the liberal looney bin known as Kalifornia.

  16. Ya, 3D plastic guns are not sold to the public. it is also not “downloadable firearms” or “ghost guns.” These things don’t exist. Data, code, and information are being sold to the public. There is no magical contraption that creates a new gun on demand.

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