The last couple of weeks has seen discussion on 3D printing and guns skyrocket. While we've always known that you could potentially make anything with a 3D-printer, the arrival of two working models of 3D-printed guns has garnered interest from the State Department and now Homeland Security.
Fox News claims to have obtained a recent Homeland Security bulletin addressing the issue of guns produced using 3D printers. Fox news cites the Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin as saying it would be "impossible" to stop 3D-printed guns from being produced or getting past security check points.
"Significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printer files for firearms components, and difficulty regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns," Fox quotes the bulletin as saying. It eventually concludes: "Limiting access may be impossible," concludes the three-page bulletin.
The bulletin stems from a 3D-printed gun developed by non-profit Defense Distributed. The company's 'Liberator' gun is made of sixteen components, each printed using ABS plastic. In fact, the only parts of the gun that aren't plastic are the firing pin (a single nail), and a six ounce chunk of steel that Defense Distributed added to ensure the gun was detectable by metal detectors and so in compliance of the Undetectable Firearms Act. The bulletin says that if people choose to omit this part of the weapon, the guns could become increasingly hard to detect.
Defense Distributed made the CAD files for the Liberator available for download online but, after just a few days, the files were pulled at the behest of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls. The letter from the State Department cited potential violation of gun export laws (specifically, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations or ITARs) and said Defense Distributed should treat the data as ITAR-controlled until it receives final determinations from the Department. Unfortunately, the State Department can't do much about copies of the files downloaded before they were removed from Defense Distributed's site. In fact, earlier this week, an engineer showed off his own version of the Liberator that he printed at home using a consumer-level 3D printer.