What’s The Future Of Gun Control In A Society That Can Print Out Firearms?


Home manufacturing, made possible by 3D printers, may be the proverbial “wave of the future.” And it may well make gun control policy obsolete:

Cody Wilson, like many Texan gunsmiths, is fast-talkin’ and fast-shootin’—but unlike his predecessors in the Lone Star State, he’s got 3D printing technology to help him with his craft.

Wilson’s nonprofit organization, Defense Distributed, released a video this week showing a gun firing off over 600 rounds—illustrating what is likely to be the first wave of semi-automatic and automatic weapons produced by the additive manufacturing process.

Last year, his group famously demonstrated that it could use a 3D-printed “lower” for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle—but the gun failed after six rounds. Now, after some re-tooling, Defense Distributed has shown that it has fixed the design flaws and a gun using its lower can seemingly fire for quite a while. (The AR-15 is the civilian version of the military M16 rifle.)

The lower, or “lower receiver” part of a firearm, is the crucial part that contains all of the gun’s operating parts, including the trigger group and the magazine port. (Under American law, the lower is what’s defined as the firearm itself.)

Federal gun control policies are predicated upon the rather expansive interpretation of the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause. Which is to say that because firearms are sold across state lines, the federal government claims the right to regulate them. But what about guns that are manufactured at home? Those, by definition, would not be interstate commerce so how could the federal government regulate them?

States such as Montana and Wyoming already have laws exempting firearms manufactured and sold within their state borders from federal gun control laws. They don’t have much impact because not a lot of guns are manufactured in those states, but 3D printers could change that.

Of course, if 3D printers catch on you can bet the federal government will try to regulate them in a big way. And the courts could always find a way to stretch the interstate commerce clause a little bit further. Maybe they’ll find that the downloaded schematics used by the 3D printers cross state lines, and so open up the printed out product to regulation.

But it’s nice to see technology challenging policy.

Here’s video of the firearm being tested:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Minarchist

    Banning full capacity magazines will also be pointless. Any machinist, gunsmith, or crafty person can make one at home.

    • Guest

      Charles Whitman pulled off his spree at UT-Austin pretty effectively with a bolt action rifle that could only hold three rounds internally.

      • John_Wayne_American

        If he tried that again, Big Sis would launch a drone strike on his ass.

        The whole gun debate is a deliberate political move to
        a) take our eye off the defict ball
        b) splinter the conservitives
        c) move us to the next step towards European governance.
        d) it gives Der Leader pleasure watching gun rights folks go ape shit

        really for Der Leader, The great O’Bummer, its perfect!

        • $8194357


        • slackwarerobert

          Or it is the plan for obama to save the economy, sales are way up. Lets hope this time it is the people buying the guns and not holder.

          Whitman could still do a lot of damage before the drone showed up to video the carnage for obamas viewing pleasure on his next flight to vegas. Besides which he still would have used his more powerful rifle over a puny 223 AR. If your goal is mayhem then you don’t use an inferior product. He would use a 50 cal sniper rifle if he did want to upgrade to better equipment.

    • slackwarerobert

      No, with all the work needed, your better off making dozens at a time.The point of the printer is the lower is what the government bans and “registers”. That and they are now making 3d printers that work with metal as well. Those nice cv joints on your car will make several pistol barrels that will handle the loads of a 50 dessert eagle even. I turned a crank shaft into the dies for stamping my brass, that crome-molly will never wear out.The ceo of a 3d start up company is giving a lecture in two weeks, I will be attending. While it is no substitute for a cnc lathe and mill setup, it can’t hurt to see about making those plastic parts you need now and then.I’m hoping for the next generation doing carbon fiber, kevlar, carbon nano tubes, or bucky balls.

  • John_Wayne_American

    Your comment is awaiting moderation. See your comment.


    • two_amber_lamps

      It’s been like that for a while… if there’s certain words in there it’ll stick it in the moderator que. If you really want the post to go as is just mod it to something like a$%^…..

  • SigFan

    I have several friends who are machinists and gunsmiths that can manufacturer very sophisticated firearms from scratch – including full-auto or select fire, which they don’t do but have the knowledge to. And they have the mills and lathes and other machines needed in their personal “hobby” shops. The point is that the government can enact whatever bans and foolish laws they want, but the knowledge and ability for people to make what they want or need is already out there. And short of confiscating all machinery, materials and brains, within days there will be more weapons made and sold if there is a demand for them – and there always will be.

  • WOOF

    Who you? gonna call?

    • John_Wayne_American

      Janet “El REno” is pissed she couldnt of had 50 of these in which to surround Waco with, instead of spending weeks waiting out the Branch Dividiens.

      • slackwarerobert

        Yea, if she had printed her own tanks there would be nothing to tie her to the murders.

  • John_Wayne_American

    I’d rather have the CAD file for a CNC Mill than a printer that prints plastic.

    You can go to gun shows and buy 80% machined recievers already, with the easy to machine stuff left for the purchaser to complete. So this is kind of a non story,

    This story is about the receiver rather than the upper half of the rifle which takes 95% of the force of the shot, the only thing the receiver has to do is hold the mag in place, position the trigger and keep the pistol grip from breaking off.

    When they start printing Barrels and uppers that can take the PSI of a .223 or .308 round, then we will have something.

    CNC mills are getting cheaper and cheaper, some as low as a decent printer, then all you need is the CNC Cad data and some scrap Aluminum, steel, or even brass.

    • two_amber_lamps


      Polymer lowers are already out there….

      The only benefit to them is weight savings, not enough benefit to trade away durability, chemical reactivity resistance, etc. of a good aluminum one, even a cheapey forged one.

      The issue here is the ubiquity with which lowers could be manufactured with such a “printer” could manufacture them when such technology becomes more widespread and affordable.

      Obviously the manufacture of such would be illegal under current federal firearms laws.

      I don’t know what kind of plastic they’re using in the manufacturing process, but at least the manufactured poly lowers use glass filled nylon and specific blends of plastic for durability, heat/wear resistance. My concern with them is when they do wear out (as the manufacturer states they will wear out sooner than later) what will happen? The alignment of the trigger/hammer pins determine when that trigger pull is going to release the sear. Wear/deformation would lead to a unreliable trigger mechanism/safety or inoperative trigger at least, or perhaps a run-away if the system doesn’t re-engage correctly?

      Would make much more sense if they molded metallic parts into the wear points like glock and so many other manufacturers do which utilize injection molded parts.

      • John_Wayne_American

        I agree, I already own a polymer upper in .22 for my AR, it works great, its very light and I’d think be durable for the .22 pressures.

        My issue with the story is they make it sound as if you could just go to some website, download a CAD file, and hit print- and Bingo! a few hours later you have a hand gun or in this case an E-V-I-L AR 15.

        Its not that easy, you still need springs, barrels and now, post Jan 1 2013…. AMMO!

        • PK

          I think it’s more of an educational campaign than a practical one. This kid is using an older printer due to limited funds and he’s just trying to put the concept out there. I’d say it’s working considering he’s already been raided by the BATF. As the technology advances, a completely metal firearm that you can download and print isn’t that far off.

        • slackwarerobert

          Yes, but once you learn to make your primers, you would be surprised at how well they work when you use 10 penny nails to hold them in a steel pipe for safe keeping. You don’t even need to put them in the brass casings. Just use the storage container.

          Making the lowers for sale would be illegal without your ffl, but for personel use not a problem at all. The only gray area is after you fire it and decide to make a new one and sell the ‘used’ lower in a private sale. But renting your printer to someone who then prints their own would not violate any laws either. That is where I am going to be making my money when der fuhrer bans plain old rifles because they look evil.

          But there you go again, don’t make an AR, stick it to those copyright violating chinese and make your AK instead. Lets see how they like 2,000,000 AK’s printed out and they can’t sell any of theirs.
          Are you responsible if you get infected with the AUTO VIRUS while printing your gun?

      • slackwarerobert

        sadly they don’t let us buy glass in the US. You might get hurt if you put in in your veins. But it is great stuff for manufacturing small scale. this generation of printers can work with it, probably the gypsum models would be best to convert. I will stay with my metal cnc, but will keep the print files on disk for future use when needed.

  • headward

    The most dangerous printers are the ones in the Federal Reserve destroying our currency.

    • $8194357


  • Hellboy

    Oh, the American spirit and ingenuity…….. We always find a way. Whether it is through technology like the 3D printer or just going to a hardware store to pick up the components to make a “zip” gun. MOLON LABE !!!

  • slackwarerobert

    But the real test will be SILENCERS! How many rounds before the gun starts making noise again?

  • mickey_moussaoui


  • $8194357

    Freedom Outpost’s Constitutional scholar Publius Huldah recently explained why Federal gun laws are unlawful. She noted that the first gun control measures put in place in the United States did not take place until 1927, when Congress banned the mailing of certain weapons. “We went from 1776 to 1927, 150 years after our founding, when Congress decided, “We better start disarming the American people.”

    Read more:

    “What part of shall not be infringed is difficult to understand?”

    Elitist international progressive wealth re-distribution banking ponzi pulling the strings since America was “incorperated” away from its Constitutional Rule of Law
    foundations, huh

  • $8194357

    Big Brother?
    Big Sister?

    Recently uncovered government documents reveal that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) unmanned Predator B drone fleet has been custom designed to identify civilians carrying guns and track cell phone signals.
    “I am very concerned that this technology will be used against law-abiding American firearms owners,” said founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, Alan Gottlieb. “This could violate Fourth Amendment rights as well as Second Amendment rights.”
    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s drone requirements through a Freedom of Information Act request; CNET uncovered an unredacted copy.
    Homeland Security design requirements specify that its Predator B drones “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not” and must be equipped with “interception” systems capable of reading cell phone signals.

    Read more:

  • $8194357

    Subject: Lazy Gun
    _Today I swung my front door wide open and placed my Stevens 320
    right in the doorway. I gave it 6 shells, and noticing that it had
    no legs, even placed it in my wheelchair to help it get around. I
    then left it alone and went about my business._
    _While I was gone, the mailman delivered my mail, the neighbor boy
    across the street mowed the yard, a girl walked her dog down the
    street, and quite a few cars stopped at the stop sign right in front
    of our house. After about an hour, I checked on the gun. It was
    still sitting there in the wheelchair, right where I had left it. It
    hadn’t rolled itself outside. It certainly hadn’t killed anyone,
    even with the numerous opportunities it had been presented to do so.
    In fact, it hadn’t even loaded itself. _
    Well you can imagine my surprise, with all the media hype about how
    dangerous guns are and how they kill people. Either the media is
    wrong, and it’s the misuse of guns by PEOPLE that kills people, or
    I’m in possession of the laziest gun in the world.
    Alright, well I’m off to check on my spoons. I hear they’re
    making people fat.

  • Johnrambo1

    What’s the future hold when half of a population wants to live free and the other half loves the way their chains feel?

    • slackwarerobert

      It should be heaven, except the chain lovers want the free chained as well.