By Mike Morrison
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely seen the incredible progress Solid Concepts made with their working, 3D printed 1911. I bet you watched all of Cody Wilson’s printing antics and the horror they elicited among the anti-gun community. But you may not have considered some of the greatest threats to the future of printing firearms. If you look in your safe, you’ll see their names printed all over your favorite firearms . . .
3D printing is set to revolutionize industrial production. It provides designs and ramps up initial production. Printers likely won’t replace mass production, but will decrease barriers to entry for new products and those who create them. Though small in scale initially, the entry of new competitors will threaten existing companies. This threat will create strange bedfellows.
Economists call this scenario the Bootleggers and the Baptists. The theory, proposed by Bruce Yandle who served as the Executive Director of the Federal Trade Commission during the Reagan administration, suggests that an unholy alliance would form between groups fundamentally opposed to each other.
For example, let’s say your town council proposed to limit the sale of liquor on Sundays. Baptists and other prohibitionists would be ecstatic to have a day away from demon rum and naturally would campaign fiercely for such a regulation. Surprisingly, the bootleggers would join them as such a regulation would shut down the legal liquor stores, leaving them as the only option in town.
Now, for the five of you who didn’t let their eyes roll to the back of your heads, let’s think about that in context of the firearms industry. The Baptists are easy to identify; it’s Piers Morgan, Mothers Against Guns and Feinstein and the rest. But the bootleggers? They’re the existing gun manufacturers.
Unconvinced? There are countless examples of other industries using regulation to shut out their competition. Even Bill Ruger supported magazine limits and possibly more during the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban battle. Many established businesses choose to compete not in the marketplace, but with lobbyists on K Street and in the halls of Congress.
Expect to see some kind of national regulation that claims to “standardize” and “modernize” gun production. Such a regulation will serve simply to entrench current producers and shut down the little guys. Anything that limits firearm production will be praised by the gun grabbers and it’s likely this kind of regulation could find support in the firearms industry, whether public or in private.
If we want to see innovation and entrepreneurship like never before in the firearm industry, shooters need to rally around 3D printers. As TTAG and others have discussed at length, we cannot allow our movement to be divided or we will surely be conquered. We’ve seen that 3D printing greatly decreases costs and allows folks who could not have broken into the industry before the chance to do so. Defending these printers from crushing regulations will stimulate innovation in firearm manufacturing and design in ways never seen before and continue to protect our right to bear arms.