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article imageOp-Ed: Media revives 3D printable guns stories after Newtown

By Paul Wallis     Dec 26, 2012 in Technology
Sydney - A few months back, 3D printable guns weren’t very newsworthy. AP has just revived the story after the Newtown massacre. In depth, it wasn’t. Apparently all that was needed was a few dead kids to turn it into news again.
If this doesn’t freeze your blood, you’re not trying hard enough- 3D printable guns. You can get the specifications for an AR15 like the one used at Newtown and print some. That’s not the only problem, obviously- Imagine the market for these things.
Sydney Morning Herald/AP:
University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, 24-year-old "Wiki Weapons" project leader for Defense Distributed, says the group last month test fired a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle — one of the weapon-types used in the Connecticut school massacre. Video posted by the group on YouTube indicates the gun was built with some key parts created on a 3D printer and fired six times before it broke.
No independent observer verified the test. Federal firearms regulators said they are aware of the technology's gun-making potential but do not believe an entire weapon has yet been made.
Yeah, you can just imagine anyone able to make an assault rifle going for the publicity and peer group approval, not the money, IP, and power. Actually, it was the gun’s receiver which was printed. There was much sage wisdom about the plastic materials not being able to handle the pressures inside a gun, apparently from those totally unversed in weapons tech for the last 60 years or so. Guns are relatively primitive weapons compared to other options invented over the last few decades.
3D printers are getting a lot more sophisticated in a hurry, including multi-material printing, and, of course, there’ll be a point at which these things can replicate themselves quite easily. Materials problems are going to be quite temporary for the 3D printers. There are already metal 3D printers, and guns are a relatively small part of the story.
Suddenly it’s news, grandad?
The news value of this potential global home weapon factory apparently took some time to percolate through. The New York Times ran a story in October, and apparently no related articles. (No comment from the NRA about this, either.)
Digital Journal ran a story in August, courtesy Abigail Prendergast.
The earliest reference I could find came from Gizmag in July, and included a successful firing of 200 rounds in a cutdown automatic weapon version of the AR15. Gizmag points out that this was the first fully printed firearm.
Exactly how this suddenly became news again is another issue. At the time the subject produced the predictable polarized views and not much else. Apparently, the usual process of media paying absolutely no attention to what may well be a plague of trouble from new technology is working perfectly.
Gun news, if anything, is worse. I did an article some years ago about large numbers of weapons from the US going to Mexico, and you could hear the dust snore. Then came the Mexican Apocalypse, and it turned into news. Put tech and guns together, and apparently nobody pays the slightest attention.
The video for Wiki Weapons featured in the Sydney Morning Herald/AP article has now received 1.2 million hits in 5 months. Obviously, the interest is coming from somewhere. Who’d be interested in creating automatic weapons, apart from them thar crazy kids? Damn near anyone.
A downside to downloadable weapons arsenals? Nah! Same ‘ol same ‘ol
If you’re looking for a way to put arms manufacturers out of business, this is it, but look on the bright side- You can make worse things than guns, too, and they’re actually easier to make than assault rifles. I’m not about to say what, but there are options which would be of great interest to terrorists and criminals and even your average genocidal maniac in the street.
There are whole classes of weapons and other less friendly things that could easily be made with a 3D printer. Just think “disposable weapons”, and figure out the options. People can make all kinds of guns without 3D printers, but these things could in theory make precision weapons.
Yep, yet again human stupidity has snatched a major disaster from the jaws of a major technical triumph. Like the major global asset of the internet producing the major global liability of unheard-of cybercrime, 3D printing will eventually be able to make practically anything anyone needs, but in the meantime it’ll help make this world the living hell it seems determined to be.
Likely developments of this technology will affect global culture, a lot:
Printable paedophiles (End of organised religion as we know it)
Printable politicians (OK, enhancements, rather than developments in this case)
Printable movie scenes (California goes under due to weight of merchandising)
Printable employers (Employers were bound to become three dimensional sooner or later)
Printable celebrities (End of mass media as we know it)
Printable rock stars (Complete with teen spirit, multi-terabyte egos and geriatric chords)
Printable rehashes of every TV show ever made (No difference at all, allows no-talents to have six figure jobs and replaces toilet paper)
Printable nutcases (Saving time with all that tedious biological reproduction which delays the documentaries)
Printable porn (Instead of paying to watch other people have sex, you can now pay to watch non-existent people have artificial sex and wait for the moving parts in the subscriber kits)
The likely opinion of current and future generations of all this cultural cretinism and the suffering it will inevitably cause?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about 3D printable guns, newtown shootings, technology and culture, cody wilson, NRA
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