Do you know how to tell if a cultural, societal or technological phenomenon has built sufficient steam and broken through into the general consciousness? It’s when the New York Times finally gets around to noticing it — a minimum of six to eight months later — and decides to bring it to the attention of their ever-declining readership along with all the rest of the news that’s fit to print. So with yesterday’s article by Nick Bilton, Disruptions: With a 3-D Printer, Building a Gun With the Push of a Button, printing guns and gun parts with your own accessibly priced 3D printing equipment has officially come to the notice of our betters. And that means something needs to be done about it. Now. The only problem with that is, as the Times notes . . .
But monitoring whether people make their own guns on a 3-D printer is going to be impossible, barring sticking an A.T.F. agent in every home. It’s also hopeless to try to build a technology into these printers that prevents people from printing a gun. One project mentioned in Mr. Wilson’s video, called the RepRap printer, will be capable of replicating itself by printing other 3-D printers.
But wait, there’s more! The Times article doesn’t miss a chance to point out some of the horrors that are only a download away as this new and dangerous technology proliferates.
It won’t be long before a felon, unable to buy a gun legally, can print one at home. Teenagers could make them in their bedroom while their parents think they are “playing on their computer.” I’m talking about a fully functional gun, where the schematic is downloaded free from the Internet and built on a 3-D printer, all with the click of a button.
Just a thought: why would a felon lay out a couple of grand — minimum — for a computer and 3D printer to gin up a plastic gun when he can go out on the street and buy himself a (mostly) metal one for a couple hundred samolians? Or just steal one? Oh…because in the Times worldview, it’s against the law, and that should be enough to prevent a criminal from doing it, right?
But hey, give the Times props for including a little perspective on the situation, too.
Michael Guslick, an amateur gunsmith who has written extensively online about the considerable challenges of 3-D printed guns, said people had been experimenting with homemade guns for some time. He said the most notable example was the zip gun, which is made from off-the-shelf plumbing parts. (Not surprisingly, the schematics and instructions can be downloaded online.)
“This is just applying a different technology to something that is already being done,” he said. “But making one on a 3-D printer is a lot of work when your local plumbing department is so close by.”
But enough about the exigencies of what Morpheus liked to call the real world. As the Times labels it, this (no longer very) new technology is represents a disruption. A glitch in the matrix. Like the black cat Neo saw twice, it represents a problem, a loosening of controls over something that all right thinking individuals know needs to be very tightly controlled. And control is something that those who have it tend to guard rather jealously. Particularly when it’s gun control.
Never mind the fact that felons and others who have lost their gun rights get their mitts on heaters the old fashioned way each and every day. Never mind that teenagers do all kinds of things in their bedrooms their parents are unaware of (or just don’t want to know about), some of which may even involve guns.
Like the first printing press (the regular, book-making kind), the automobile, rock and roll and the personal computer — oh, and the Internet, too, 3D printing is just the latest whiz-bang, newfangle thing to come along that’s sure to give the powers that be a violent case of the vapors as they visualize everything that can happen if these things are available at every Best Buy store (they will be) and the hoi polloi get their grubby hands on them.
As Guslick, the shade tree gunsmith pointed out, it’s pretty easy for anyone who’s really interested to make a gun at home right now. All it takes is a quick trip to your friendly neighborhood Home Depot. Employing a laptop and a 3D printer is just a natural refinement of the same idea. A further democratization of something that’s already Constitutionally protected. No wonder the Times is so worked up.