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This post is a follow-up to numerous arguments I've had recently in politicartoons. I've been ridiculed for saying that manufacturing sophisticated firearms is easily within the reach of the average garage hacker, and that gun control will only drive criminals to produce even deadlier and less traceable weapons.

Something just hit the news today that proves me right: some guy made a 3D printed lower receiver for an AR-15.

For those who don't know about firearms, the lower receiver is the part that's legally a firearm. It's the part that determines whether the weapon fires on semi-auto or full-auto. And it's one of the two major parts of a firearm that are somewhat tricky to machine, the other being cutting the rifling in the barrel.

Blowback-operated semi-automatic pistols or even submachine guns with unrifled barrels would be trivial to manufacture using this method, and quite deadly at close range. And they'd be so cheap they could be used once and tossed without a second thought.

We are entering an age of 3D printers and CNC mills where people will be able to simply download and print any mechanical object they desire, from silverware to bicycles. Preventing people from printing guns will be about as effective as preventing them from pirating music. Nothing short of Orwellian total surveillance will deter criminals from doing this. What has always been true is now even more true: gun control cannot keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It can only prevent good people from defending themselves.

Comments

( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
the_rukh
Jul. 26th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
So this is like when that one guy was doing nuclear physics tests in his basement and it proved that everybody can easily do nuclear physics?
madscience
Jul. 26th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
You mean that Boy Scout who built a breeder reactor in his mom's tool shed? Yeah. Except that you can go out and buy everything you need to do this for a few hundred bucks. Or if you're a little more of a DIYer, just download plans and make the tools yourself.
the_rukh
Jul. 27th, 2012 10:24 am (UTC)
And just look at the thriving amateur nuclear research industry.

Come on now. Put two and two together.

Edited at 2012-07-27 10:25 am (UTC)
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:33 pm (UTC)
Restrictions on research samples of nuclear materials were tightened after that kid pulled off his stunt. But as I noted, cheap CNC machines and 3D printers designed for home use are becoming more available. Machines that were once one-offs made from salvaged parts are now available as kits for around the price of the tax stamp on a suppressor.

Isn't the whole rationale for gun control the idea that the ready commercial availability of guns is to blame for gun crime? Put two and two together yourself.
the_rukh
Jul. 27th, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
The idea of gun control is to reduce gun availability to those who would use them for untoward purposes.
madscience
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
Right. And so far, no gun control measure has ever been even slightly effective in that. What's that saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
the_rukh
Jul. 28th, 2012 10:32 am (UTC)
Oh you have some empirical testing on that?

Looks like people aren't walking around with AKs much are they? Rocket launchers? Not your average street weapon.
madscience
Jul. 28th, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC)
AK-47s are every bit as legal as anything else here, but yes, people aren't walking around with them. So the law isn't the difference. What do you suppose is?
the_rukh
Jul. 29th, 2012 12:10 am (UTC)
so availability has an effect, hmm.
madscience
Jul. 29th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC)
*whoosh*
the_rukh
Jul. 29th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
Sounds to me like you don't have anything.
yes_justice
Jul. 27th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Somehow, I sorta doubt the resistance secret weapon will be underground 3d printers.
dv8nation
Jul. 27th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
Seriously. These ain't Star Trek repilcators.
dwer
Jul. 27th, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)
yes, because the poor and downtrodden totally have access to these high-end printers, and the materials to put in them.
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
They do. CNC machines can be built from the stepper motors and control boards in scanners and inkjet printers, of which there are mountains just waiting to be recycled. Plans are available free online.
dwer
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:54 am (UTC)
And very few people are interested in doing so.
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
Just as very few people are interested in producing illegal drugs. It only takes a few.
wobblerlorri
Jul. 27th, 2012 01:09 pm (UTC)
I think drugs are completely printing your own high-powered weaponry. It doesn't take a lot of experience with DIY electronics to cook up a batch of meth, LSD, or grow pot -- all it takes is the ability to follow a recipe or keep a plant alive. If you can bake a cake, even from a mix, you have the chemistry-related skills to cook meth. If you can grow a decent garden, you can grow pot.

In order to make your illicit CNC machine you'd need to know circuitry, soldering, gate theory, and a whole host of other specialized knowledge that I'm not even aware of. Sure, I can build a computer, but I can't make a circuit board. All I can do is plug card A into slot B, or connector C into drive D and trust it to do what it's supposed to do.

I think you need to chill.
fizzyland
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
Actually, everything you describe in the first paragraph is harder than you portray.
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't admit that if I were you.
fizzyland
Jul. 27th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
"In order to make your illicit CNC machine you'd need to know circuitry"

Or just, you know, buy one. The entry level is $300 and falling fast.
fizzyland
Jul. 27th, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
rowsdowerisms
Jul. 27th, 2012 06:12 pm (UTC)

Super easy!
fizzyland
Jul. 27th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
Speaking of which, there are some allegations you'll need to answer for:
(Deleted comment)
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
Hundreds of people have already done that. Use Google.
(Deleted comment)
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC)
Send me the money.
(Deleted comment)
yes_justice
Jul. 27th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
Surely there must be groups willing to fund the insurgency?
(Deleted comment)
fizzyland
Jul. 27th, 2012 05:39 pm (UTC)

/does not want to invest in your startup.
dwer
Jul. 27th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
it's a hard man who needs funding to prove his insistence.
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
Why should I put up the $500 to prove something so obvious? And even if I did, you'd just come up with some other bullshit excuse not to believe it.
dwer
Jul. 27th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
Well, if you don't have the courage of your convictions...
madscience
Jul. 27th, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
What does courage have to do with spending money I don't have to "prove" something obvious to some fucktard on LiveJournal? For that matter, how would my doing it add anything to what has already been proven by the fact that someone has already done it? Not to mention that I'd be committing a crime in the process, since I'm not a licensed gunsmith.
dwer
Jul. 27th, 2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
this is what happens to you, over and over and over again. You make an assertion. Someone disagrees with you. You argue. They ask for proof. You argue. They ask for proof again. Then you say something like "you'er a moron, I'm not going to do it for you because I'm obviously superior and smarter than you and you're a stupidhead."

Which endears you to no one, but does have the side-effect of adding mirth to everyone else's day.

You say this is easy to do. We say it's not. It's not up to us to disprove you. It's up to you to prove it.
madscience
Jul. 28th, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
The article I linked in the OP already proves what you are demanding I prove. What better proof could there be than documentation of someone actually doing what I said could be done?

As for it being easy, there are only three steps to the process:

1. Purchase commercially available 3D printer. Price: under $500.
2. Download one of several publicly-available firearms.
3. Print firearm.

Now, which one of those steps are you claiming is difficult?
fizzyland
Jul. 27th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
To recoup your costs you could make a documentary about it and name it Rise of the Machine Shops.
yes_justice
Jul. 27th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
Hey mon, instead of making a gun, why not make some of that easy to produce LSD? You'd do a lot more good for humanity that way!
geezer_also
Jul. 28th, 2012 03:41 am (UTC)
Meh, even if it's "that" easy, and I don't doubt it like so many of the nay-sayers; bombs are so much easier, and I got a copy of "The Anarchist's Cookbook" for only 50 cents
madscience
Jul. 28th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC)
Bombs are cowardly and useless for self-defense. And most of what's in The Anarchist's Cookbook is bullshit that either won't do anything, or will likely kill you.
the_rukh
Jul. 28th, 2012 10:34 am (UTC)
"cowardly" is that really a consideration in armed warfare to you?
madscience
Jul. 28th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
It's definitely a consideration in asymmetric warfare.
( 45 comments — Leave a comment )

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