Are 3D Printed Guns a Good Idea
The debate surrounding the ethics of creating a 3D printed gun is one that is not likely to fade from the public eye any time soon. It’s much more likely that we’ll see this conversation get more and more heated as the legality of the available prints is decided in the courts.
I would argue that this has the potential to overshadow the 3D printing industry and wind up giving 3D printing a black eye for a while simply because it’s such a polarizing topic.
Tools do not have an Inherent Morality
I like to think there is a general understanding that well motivated bad actors are going to do bad things. Regardless of whether or not a 3D printed gun was a part of that equation. Even with the designs that were available for a short time, a 3D printed gun made today will likely last one shot with bad accuracy and be useless plastic afterward. But that’s what it seems like everyone is talking about…’what bad things could be done with a 3D printer’. While I am ethically concerned about people hurting other people, the technophile in me wants to ask questions like:
“What material is the best to withstand the blast of a bullet being fired?”
“How many rounds can I fire from each print before it breaks?”
“How can I make shots more accurate by changing the barrel?”
These are the questions that I would like answered. Making a gun is a very specific and traditionally metal process and It is subject to the same disruptive impact that 3D printing is making in automotive or aerospace or any other industry!
This is what 3D printing does best!
3D printing takes a tedious metal manufacturing process and makes it faster, cheaper and easier. It also happens that when you apply those benefits to something that is capable of doing harm to someone, it causes a bit of an uproar but WE need to call this out for what it is! This is a proving ground for 3D printing to upend a centuries-long metal process and it’s taking place in the public eye!
Imagine what the blacksmiths of yore would be able to do with a 3D printer at their disposal instead of an anvil and hammer!
In the right hands, 3D printers can make toys, tools, assistive medical devices, and much more to make the world a better place. Much like other tools, a 3D printer, CNC machine, mill, or lathe, could be used to make a firearm. In fact, I am confident that someone with hand tools, internet access, and enough determination could make one by hand with supplies from any home improvement store.
3D printers, however, do not inherently create violence, and it’s my great hope that the public discourse and potential legal ramifications surrounding this do not result in laws being passed that hurt the development or adoption of 3D printing. I believe that we can look forward to a future where 3D printing is widely used and accepted as a means of making products, without it spiraling into an apocalypse of homemade weaponry. I think if the latter were destined to happen, it already would have with the information available online, and modern, easily-accessible tools.