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Cody Wilson takes aim at gun laws (courtesy

There’s a common thread among gun control activists — they fear change and technology. They are modern troglodytes, wishing that we could just turn back the clock and retreat into the comfortable, blissful ignorance of the 1990’s. It’s no wonder then that the same people who get the vapors whenever they see a modern AR-15 damn near piss their pantaloons when things like 3D printing come up. Their world view is predicated on the idea that the only way for people to get guns — if they must get them — is through gun dealers. The idea of private citizens manufacturing firearms themselves is as frightening as Godzilla to a Tokyo businessman . . .

An article in the Washington Post on the slippery slope dangers posed by 3D printing will likely be the new example offered to illustrate the meaning of reductio ad absurdum.

The ability to “print” or manufacture guns privately will allow individuals to bypass background checks, the primary way that guns are regulated today. And that challenge will expand exponentially as the technology advances, one day enabling individuals to print chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction at home.

That refrain is a common one we hear from gun control activists time and again. “If you think X is okay, how about nuclear weapons? What then smart guy? Shouldn’t we ban those?” It’s a lazy argument that Chicken Little types resort to when they have run out of logic. In this case, it doesn’t even make sense.

Homemade firearms manufacturing has been going great guns (so to speak) since well before the American revolution. The ability to take raw materials and turn them into a functioning firearm has always been possible, and as technology has improved the manufacturing process has improved as well.

Today, the modern musket (the AR-15) is capable of being manufactured in an afternoon with nothing more than a drill and a couple jigs. Hundreds of thousands of such firearms, 100% untraceable and procured without a background check, are in circulation right now. But that’s not what has the author’s knickers in a twist. Instead of the cheap and easy to make homemade rifles, the authors are concerned about the complicated, expensive, and unreliable 3D printed guns.

Today, licensed firearms dealers are responsible for conducting background checks and ensuring that they sell only to people legally eligible to purchase. That’s part of the reason that Obama’s 2013 gun-control proposals included not only more restrictions on who is permitted to buy and own guns, but also called for private sellers — who today don’t have to run background checks — to sell instead through licensed dealers.

That’s not possible when individuals can print their own weapons at home. With no seller, who runs background checks or denies purchase? The government’s control mechanisms fall apart.

This is not a futuristic speculation; 3-D printed handguns are already on the street. The government is struggling to respond to these guns, which are hard to detect and deadly.

Like I said, the authors truly believe that the only way people should be able to buy a gun is by going through a gun dealer. They completely ignore the rich history of homemade firearms and backyard tinkerers, believing that 3D printing is something truly new and novel.

I do already have a minor gripe: none of these 3D printed guns are “on the street.” Currently the 3D printed handguns available are single shot affairs with very limited reliability and capacity. It is far easier for criminals to get their hands on actual firearms, which are not only more reliable but more concealable as well. Using 3D printed firearms would make no sense, but that doesn’t stop the authors from making baseless claims that aren’t backed up by any facts whatsoever.

Show me a single murder that has used a 3D printed handgun and I will eat my hat.

The threat of privately printed weapons will soon grow beyond the lethal handguns now in circulation. As we argue in research forthcoming in the October issue of the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, considering expected advances in the technologies, terrorist groups will threaten nations with 3-D printed chemical, biological and nuclear weapons within a couple of decades.

This is where things go completely off the rails, and I feel the need to include some of my credentials before proceeding.

Before I started writing for TTAG, I was employed as a risk analyst for the Department of Homeland Security. I participated in performing risk analyses on topics such as terrorism, transnational crimes, and natural hazards. I can remember very distinctly the weeks I spent in a secure room reading over the official classified reports concerning CBRNE terrorism. As such, I get the feeling that I’m just a little bit more of an expert in chemical, biological, and nuclear terrorism than a professor of political science and his PhD candidate.

What’s my opinion of their fears that someone will one day 3D print a nuclear bomb? Complete and utter bullshit. The same goes for chemical and biological weapons.

For someone who doesn’t understand the way technology works, it might be understandable to believe that a 3D printer could produce a nuclear weapon. But it only takes the slightest bit of information to conclude that anyone who thinks a 3D printer can recreate Fat Man or Little Boy is roughly on the same intellectual level as the people who believe everything they read in the National Enquirer. There’s simply no way for it to happen, and any discussion on the issue only serves to stoke the fears of the uninformed for political gain.

If the Washington Post really believes that you can 3D print a nuclear bomb, I’m surprised they have enough collective brainpower to print anything at all.

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  1. Ban screwdrivers! CNC mills, machining equipment!, and ABS plastic.

    We need common sense background checks for machining equipment.


    • A primitive furnace can be built with rocks, mud and something to burn.

      With that furnace, a crude form of steel can be made.

      That crude steel can be poured into a sand mold into the shape of a blade.

      Using other rocks, that blade can be sharpened.

      That blade can slaughter many, many children.

      Rocks, mud, combustible material and sand must not be legal to possess without a full background check.

      If it saves just one child’s life, it must be done….

      • Actually, you can make much nicer steel in such a furnace that you might think.

        Use some Google-fu on “crucible steel.” You can get by with a crude furnace that uses forced-air induction and coked fuel. The item you need to obtain is a proper crucible in which to melt the iron and alloying elements at temps in the 3000F range.

        The English made very nice tool steel in small crucible quantities going clear back into the 1700’s.

        • I can believe it!

          I suppose one could fire a clay or porcelain crucible…

          The ceramic crucibles we use in the lab for metallurgical assays are made by Coors ceramics.

          Coors made ceramics before they made their beer.

          Trivia – The ceramic nose cones of American ICBM nukes (the re-entry vehicles) are made by Coors Ceramics…

    • good luck banning a 1″ diameter pipe, a 3/4″ diameter pipe, a 1″ endcap, 1″ diameter dowel rod, electrical tape, and a screw
      good luck banning a hacksaw, sandpaper, and a half round bastard file

      it it impossible to prevent firearms from proliferating without legislating all hand tools out of existence

      • Well these leftist tend to be either femnazis or “save the world and do not breed” types…So there is that…Hell Leftists do not have nearly as many kids as Conservatives..

      • To reproduce requires two people. If you’re so ideologically stupid that no one will have sex with you, then reproduction ain’t happening.

  2. Yeah, because you can totally 3D print weapons-grade uranium.

    Apparently they aren’t aware that you can already make Sarin gas at home with beans. And people HAVE. I guess they aren’t aware of the Tokyo subway incident.

    • Anyone who passed high school physics should know you’re correct about making the nuclear fuel. The energy required to make it from inert materials would exceed the energy released (assuming the technology to rearrange protons and neutrons in an atom even existed), so you’d need a dedicated nuclear power plant to do it.

      However, the idea of creating a toxic or biological agent is not as far fetched. There is research going on right now about how to create 3D printed medicines. All you’d have to do is tweak the recipe.
      But no law ever enacted by man will stop a crazy who has the tools, knowledge, and murderous intent from enacting a plan of mass murder…but a well armed citizenry might.

  3. The authors of this piece are idiot liberal arts majors enjoying winding up other idiot liberal arts majors.

    They’ll all get a good case of morbid cranial flatulence and then they’ll start harrumphing and claiming “We must do something to protect our phony-baloney jobs!” and they’ll start writing laws.

    3D printed nukes? These hysterical ninnies probably can’t articulate what is necessary to create fissile materials. Oh, that’s right, we’ll just order some plutonium off the Internet! Then we’ll grind it into fine powder, add some other metallic material and then we’ll sinter it into the shapes we need for nukes!

    It is truly amazing what a PhD in useless subjects will do to the human brain.

    • University humanities departments are finely tuned idiot-producing machines (if not perfect; I came out with sanity intact…mostly…) — but you can’t blame all the lunacy on liberal-arts majors.

      The field of scientific endeavors is chock-full of people with supposedly useful PhD’s in supposedly practical fields who stupidly waste their time on pseudo-scientific fads (my model says that anthropogenic global warming will cook the entire planet within 13 years! Give me monies!).

      It’s just that the humanities idiots are so much more visible.

      • he field of scientific endeavors is chock-full of people with supposedly useful PhD’s in supposedly practical fields who stupidly waste their time on pseudo-scientific fads (my model says that anthropogenic global warming will cook the entire planet within 13 years! Give me monies!).

        Oh, don’t you know it. I think the difference is that the people you’re referring to are mendacious grifters. The above cited article was penned by clueless hysterics. A slight, but important, distinction.

  4. There’s simply no way for it to happen<

    Sure there is. All you need is a nuclear reactor for transmutation purposes, or a Philosopher’s Stone, or a 3d printer that works on the level of protons and neutrons rather than big clumps of molecules.

    Doesn’t everyone have those?

    Seriously, of the ones mentioned I’d worry most about bioweapons based on the increasing capability of automatic gene splicers. But even so it’s clear these folks have no idea of how the technology actually works.


  5. To “3D print” nuclear material would require matter manipulation at the level of what is depicted in Star Trek. Sure, you could maybe 3D print the mechanical and electronic components of a nuke, but good luck synthesizing the high explosives and first-stage fission components of a workable nuclear weapon. That sort of engineering would mean we all moved up a notch on the Kardaschev scale. In other words, engineering a nuke would be low on the scale of things evil people would attempt to do. They’d probably look to stop the fusion reaction of the sun, that sort of thing.

    • Nah, it’d still take, what, about 10k years for the photon flux to drop off, given the propagation speed inside the solar plasma?

      Evil can do better than that, surely! 🙂

  6. ISIS will definitely get a dirty bomb, and they will not need a 3-D printer. My understanding which is just about common knowledge is all they need are some regular explosives and any old nuclear waste, best from a medical reactor. Shove it all in a pressure cooker and light it off in the middle of a large closed building like let’s say, Union Station in DC. They probably have stolen more than enough from the hospitals they have taken over in Syria and Iraq, and if not, I am sure except for fear of the source being traceable, there are many “friendly” Islamic governments that could easily provide the isotopes. That’s what the Washington Post should be concerned about.

    • IS will get nukes soon enough, courtesy of Pakistan. It’s a borderline failed state that’s already half overrun by fundies, and its military and especially intelligence services are already deeply infiltrated. It’s only a matter of time before it officially becomes a part (though nuke transfer may actually occur before then).

      I’m actually surprised with all the focus on Iranian nukes in the media while completely ignoring Pakistan, even though the chances that Iran would nuke anyone are far more remote (and given where things are going, it’s much more likely that if they do use nukes, it would be as a last-ditch measure against IS onslaught).

    • ” My understanding which is just about common knowledge is all they need are some regular explosives and any old nuclear waste, best from a medical reactor. ”

      No explosives needed.

      Buy or steal a crop duster.

      Take some nasty nuclear waste, dissolve it in some strong acid, dilute down to the volume of the tank in the crop duster.

      Fly the crop duster to the area you wish to contaminate and spay until the tank is empty.

      Instant Radiological weapon.

      Serves one area/city.


      • Order a truckload of smoke detectors. Remove the americium-241. Build a dirty bomb. Yield, one mid size city.

        Even more deadly. Go to the North Atlantic. Not far off the UK coast are hundreds of 55 gallon drums of high level nuke waste. Many in less than 100 feet of water. Not hard to find and the UK gov doesn’t even know where they all are to know if one goes missing.

        • As I understand it, the level of Americium-241 in smoke detectors is so minute you would need many thousands of detectors.

          If the Brits have that much high-level waste in that shallow of water, they need to set up a surveillance on it. Were I a Tango, that’s right where I’d go…

          Or the old USSR. They have lots.

        • Very true the level of americium in a smoke detector is quite tiny, hence the truckload requirement.

          There was a great doc on what the Brits did with a bunch of waste back in the day when ocean dumping was legal, the name escapes me at the moment. Very Soviet in the disposal process – Here you go cap’n 50 barrels. You have 3 hours (or whatever) to go as far as you can and dump these overboard. Good luck old chap.

          The UK government doesn’t even know where it all is, let alone are they watching in 24/7. It’s OK though, the barrels are rusting away, so eventually it’ll all be dispersed anyway…

        • Shee-it. If we’re going to include rooskies, just head on out to Chernoble with a shovel and pick up all you want right off the ground.

  7. Yeah, I have a prototype on my desk right now that 3D prints fissile material into nice cone shapes, to go in the plastic RPGs I printed last week! I just need to pop on down to the local uranium enrichment-center next to Starbucks and pick up some print medium. /sarc.

    Honestly, these people have to be knowingly stirring up baseless fear – they cant be so stupid to really believe themselves.

  8. A technicality, but you could make a 3D printer that in theory could print nuclear chemical, or biological weapons. The problem is not so much the technology to do it but rather just like the old fashion way to make those items you still need the specialized raw materials. So unless they invent the replicators from Star Trek we have nothing to worry about

  9. Anyone with a chemical engineering degree has enough knowledge to make a chemical wmd so are we gonna ban teaching science now because it makes it to easy for terrorists to make weapons?

    • Don’t joke about that, Tennessee and LA are already heading in that direction. Don’t need the antis jumping on that bandwagon as well.

  10. When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!

    LIttle Danny and Little Jimmy, the authors of this fantasy piece, are like young children using their imaginations to make up scary stories to frighten each other. This is a common feature of the arguments of anti-gun/anti-civil rights bigots. It is all in their heads, external reality is not a factor for them.

  11. Well, David Hahn already happened. That was 20 years ago. And real.
    You’d think if allegedly smart people like the WaPo staff were going to get all stupid hysterical about a thing it would at least be a real thing.

  12. 3D printing does not transmute elements from one to the other.

    Readers have already mentioned the fissle material but you cannot even print the explosives or electronics. Worthless article.

  13. “There’s a common thread among gun control activists. . .”

    They pretend to be ignorant of what history has already recorded as to the outcome(s) of their actions.

    They claim a fear of threat from guns/gun owners, but deny their own threat to the same.

    They want to dictate to you, control you, subjugate you, destroy you. They could say they don’t, but what would they say if they do.

    They are liberal, evil blue state POS’s and liberal, evil POS’s scattered in a few other places. Guns in the hands of citizens prevent them from taking over.

    The question is hereby asked, and answer demanded: How long will America last? [10]. This is an unknown, and assertions can be guaranteed by no one. However the existence of America requires not only the desire by its incorporated societies, to defend it but by THE VERY MEANS. Therefore, possession and retention of arms (as a right) IS HEREBY GUARANTEED to outlive even the idea of America. [TERMS, J.M. Thomas R., 2012, P. 39]

    KEEP YOUR GUNS FOR THE END OF AMERICA – so that you might have a vote in what comes next.

    “So the Libyan Fable is told
    That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
    Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
    “With our own feathers, not by others’ hands,
    Are we now smitten.” – Anton Myrer, Once an Eagle

  14. Not only does the ability to print nuclear and chemical devices presume the ability alchemical transmutations of elements and molecular compounds respectively, but printing biological ones presumes an ability to print up arbitrary life forms. Why stop at viruses and anthrax spores when you could create dragons and unicorns?

    • Corodon,

      That’s how their utopia of rainbows and sunshine will have unicorns in it. See your a problem solver for them with this new life forms 3d printer .

  15. Screw all this, I want to know when I can start printing bacon. Because everyone knows bacon has probably killed more people than guns ever have and it tastes good too.

  16. “And that challenge will expand exponentially as the technology advances, one day enabling individuals to print chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction at home.”

    Honk if that made you laugh.

  17. The antis actually have a point when they talk about legalizing nukes as a logical extension of the R2KBA. I’ve noticed the habit of pro-gunners is to dismiss the argument out of hand. I don’t think that’s the right approach. Theoretical discussions of morality and law are useful and we should take the nukes argument seriously.

    What antis are really asking isn’t if we should legalize nukes. They’re checking our premises.

    Our premises are:
    1- If the government can be trusted with it, so can we.
    2- If it’s practicable to get/make then regulation is impossible.
    3- if it’s impracticable to get/make then it isn’t a problem.

    Inasmuch as our premises hold up, we should frankly tell them that if we can afford to develop and deploy nukes, we should be free to do so. There are situations where nukes could come in handy. Why does a badge make a difference when a nuke saves the day?

    • Any material that poses a direct danger to others can be restricted.
      Firearms and ammunition for firearms does not fall into that category. If your house caught fire and you had 300,000 rounds of modern ammunition that cooks off, your neighbors are not at risk.
      If you have 50 lbs of actual explosives, then your neighbors are at risk. Modern powder doesn’t explode. It burns. Having 200 lbs of modern powder also doesn’t endanger your neighbors, having 200 lbs of black powder does. So, the latter can be restricted on how it is storage, the former cannot.
      It’s not the potential MISUSE that allows the restriction, it’s the danger posed by the explosives when they are not being intentionally used.
      Firearms have to be used to endanger someone, a bomb does not have to be used by anyone to endanger others.

      • Dynamite (and all other ‘explosives’) burn. An “explosive” is just something with a really fast burn rate. Even thermonuclear bombs slowed down millions of times are just an atomic burn.

        There is always a flame/reaction front and it expands outward.

  18. A terrorist could steal 10 kilos of weapons-grade uranium a build a bomb with it using it, the severed finger of Michael Jordan, a Notre Dame football helmet, and a firing pin from a Mosin Nagant; then, set the bomb off in Times Square, and the only thing the controllers would be screaming about would be “the gun show loophole” and “getting military-grade guns off of the street.”

  19. Oh home style 3D printing let’s see what you can do?

    Single shot blocky sort of guns? Check.
    Awful sounding guitars? Check.
    Cheap bits of tat the Chinese manage to make better for a fraction of the price and time? Check.
    Plunge the world into the cold and darkness that only comes from complete and total thermonuclear war? If it will make the feeble of mind wet themselves and support anti gun legislations? Sure why not.

    • These useful idiots are doing precisely what they are supposed to do. Scare the ignorant ones. I’ve explained the bs in the 3D printed gun myth to many people. Im not even going to try on this one. Maybe I’ll just start a kickstarter campaign, to build an ABS Raptor.

  20. “…enabling individuals to print chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction at home.”

    I must’ve got the wrong model of printer, or maybe the wrong software. I can’t see a nuclear option anywhere.

  21. I think all(most) of the recent mass shootings prove that back ground checks don’t regulate Jack.

    That’s why the gun nation rejects all the new legislation.

  22. It looks like Washington Post’s intelligencia have mistaken a 3D printer for a Star Trek replicator.

    As previously mentioned, without the appropriate type and quantity of fissile materials, a home-made nuke is an impossibility. The best, or worst, would be a dirty bomb which is conventional explosives wrapped in radiological material.

    A dirty bomb is hardly a weapon of mass destruction. It is more of a weapon of mass inconvenience and mass cleanup.

    You would have more casualties from spraying a mix of chlorine bleach and ammonia into the AC systems at a shopping center. And this has happened dozens of times by accident by cleaners.

  23. I actually cannot believe a major… well anything allowed this through. The term fear-mongering is fairly overplayed at this point, but what else can you call this crap?

  24. Wow. 3D printing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Beam me up Scotty. I see no signs of…nevermind.

    And nuclear weapons of mass destruction. I guess they aren’t worried about nuclear weapons of localized destruction. Not to mention smaller nukes, the ones that are just annoying. Or rude. What’s next, the comfy chair?

    The only thing nuclear I’m printing at home gets flushed in 5 minutes.

  25. I wasn’t aware that 3D printers were capable of producing highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Maybe everyone with a 3D printer should be subject to inspections by the IAEA. With the proper 24 days notice of course, so that they have time to clean their printer.

  26. So we can now 3D print plutonium and uranium? (not considering centrifuges/breeders here, otherwise we already have ‘printed’ materials in that regard) 😉

    Hey, I always wanted a Thorium breeder in my backyard. 200ish years of free power. Yay. Don’t mind those pesky regulatory issues. And a little radiation never hurt anyone. 😀

  27. When people are able to print what they want,

    people will print what they want.

    Better get in all your control of people, ideas, and information now, because soon it will be IMPOSSIBLE.


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