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The ATF Not Concerned About 3D Printed Guns... Yet 344

derekmead writes "3D-printing gun parts has taken off, thanks to the likes of Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed. While the technology adds a rather interesting wrinkle to the gun control debate, the ATF currently is pretty hands-off, ... 'We are aware of all the 3D printing of firearms and have been tracking it for quite a while,' Earl Woodham, spokesperson for the ATF field office in Charlotte, said. 'Our firearms technology people have looked at it, and we have not yet seen a consistently reliable firearm made with 3D printing.' A reporter called the ATF's Washington headquarters to get a better idea of what it took to make a gun 'consistently reliable,' and program manager George Semonick said the guns should be 'made to last years or generations.' In other words, because 3D-printed guns aren't yet as durable as their metal counterparts, the ATF doesn't yet consider them as much of a concern."
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The ATF Not Concerned About 3D Printed Guns... Yet

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  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @07:56PM (#43277295)

    Where ATF is missing the mark is that these printed guns are already good enough for the planned murder or bank hold up, hijacking, etc, where getting off one or two rounds is all the perp is interested in. In other words, one could make the argument that untraceable guns are more likely to be used in a crime than a traceable one.

    Or one could make the argument that I watch too much TV.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @07:58PM (#43277321) Homepage Journal

    Sure but until local idiots start downloading guns with one click and running them off on a standard peripheral, they won't worry. People with the ability to 3D print a gun can already make all sorts of weapons.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:02PM (#43277353)

    How hard would it be to pass a 3D printed gun through a metal detector? How hard would it be to make ceramic bullets to be fired from those guns?

    Well, there's still the matter of the metal barrel, the metal firing pin, the metal springs. The only thing so far that has been 3D printed is a plastic frame. That is why the ATF is not concerned at the moment.

  • Is it a big deal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndrewX ( 680681 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:10PM (#43277419)
    It's already legal to make a firearm for your own personal use, as long as you're not selling them. Also, it's not like you can print barrels and trigger groups and stuff. There's a lot more involved than just the parts that a 3D printer can print.
  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:19PM (#43277481)

    There is nothing about 3D printing that makes it any different then any other form of fabrication. It's not even cheaper really.

    3d printing turns making a gun into a script-kiddie kind of operation instead of requiring some technical skills.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:28PM (#43277539) Homepage

    18th century history shows us when a government wants to control the people, they take away their rights. Among these is the right to self-defense -- the right to weapons. 20th century history shows us they wanted to take away alcohol because people cannot be trusted to behave well with it. "For our own good" it was taken away from us. But people made their own, illegally. They countered the government in rebellion. In secret they made clubs. They organized. They defended themselves with guns... "assault weapons" even. The government realized the price was too high and the people were siding with the criminals. Prohibition was repealed.

    The government hasn't lost the people yet. But if history is any model, the very moment the government tries to take too much away is when things will change. Things will have to get very bad before they get better. Let's hope that other countries don't step in as the US government fails. China would be very interested in picking our bones and to desperate people who are defending themselves from our government, even China will appear to be friendly and sympathetic.

    The government and these anti-gun fools need to look to the past to see our future.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:28PM (#43277541) Journal
    It's easier to make a gun from only plumbing parts than to fit the metal parts to a 3D printed receiver. The plastic grip does nothing but make it look nicer. Heck, a fireworks mortar loaded with a rock could kill you and those are made of PAPER, so you really don't even need plumbing pieces - you can make a gun from a newspaper. (Indeed, a paper mortar better matches the military definition of "gun" than does a semi-automatic.) 3D printing changes nothing - weapons have been easy to make since bronze was invented

    To look at it another way, CNC had the exact same effect - someone with a $5,000 tool could make a more professional looking weapon. Before that, metal lathes made weapon fabrication easier. Same with a dozen other tools. Why did we not hear this fear mongering about home CNC machines, or lathes, or forges, for that matter? Because until the least few decades most people had the basic tools of self defense as a matter of course. Yeah, anyone could make a gun in 1950, or 1900, but why bother? Just buy one at Sears. What's changed is the sissification of the culture. The technology makes no difference. The difference is that today we have a bunch of wussy girlie men who've never so much as held a pistol, and are afraid of what they are unfamiliar with.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:37PM (#43277579)

    Sure but until local idiots start downloading guns with one click and running them off on a standard peripheral, they won't worry. People with the ability to 3D print a gun can already make all sorts of weapons.

    I believe that is the response the ATF should have made. The problem isn't longevity of the weapon - that is a weird-ass red-herring for them to throw out there. The problem is ease of access. Until 3D printers are as cheap and plentiful as ink-jet printers, they aren't a major risk for criminal usage.

    However, when that day comes, the ATF is screwed. They will have no more luck at controlling distribution of printable weapons than the MAFIAA has had at controlling distribution of movies and music.

  • by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @08:48PM (#43277671)

    As a regular reader and frequent poster, I almost always have moderator points (frequently 15 at a time) and do the "neighborly" thing of keeping all posts in full view to watch for moderator abuse, as slashdot requests. However, if posts like this continue I'll just go back to what I usually do (-1 hidden)

    Can we please add a content filter for quick detection and (non-automatic) removal of these posts? Given that he frequently posts just the same crap over and over again, I think it should be pretty easy to set up a heuristic system that would allow an admin to easily spot and nuke these, followed by IP bans.

  • by bsane ( 148894 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @09:01PM (#43277745)

    Yes, but with ubiquitous 3d printers, there will be more for sale.

    I'm not taking a stance, just saying, easy, non-traceable production will make them much more available. If I had to guess, it'll be a bigger problem in countries other than the US, since guns are already fairly easy to come by.

  • by gringer ( 252588 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @09:08PM (#43277771)

    And one could also make an argument that a 3D printer can not produce anything that I cant already make with tools ranging from a micro CNC to a nail file.

    There are some glue-free structures involving enclosed internal parts (moving or non-moving) that can't be created on a milling machine (or similar equivalent machine such as what you have enumerated), but can be printed on a layered additive printer.

    It also has a "one-tool for everything" advantage, allowing you to rapidly prototype and evolve things in a fairly short space of time.

  • by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @09:15PM (#43277807)
    Spoken like someone who has never had to actually prep G-code, fixture a part or debug mill routing. CNC machining is a technical discipline requiring real skill and experience. Experts are paid very good money for their time and talent.
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:42PM (#43278197) Journal
    You have already pointed out there is a mechanism in place for you to apply the level of filter you are comfortable with. That should be enough. There are very good reasons why this is permitted.
  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <> on Monday March 25, 2013 @10:48PM (#43278239) Homepage

    Let's see, which is better for my use as a criminal

    - A gun that will "last for generations" and keep a permanent record of the ammo fired from it in the form of bullet striations

    - A gun that I can fire 30-60 times and then literally dispose of in a fire leaving zero provable trace for anyone to link me to it

    Why on earth would a criminal want a gun that would "last for generations" as opposed to one that can be used and then destroyed?

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Monday March 25, 2013 @11:00PM (#43278303)

    Laser sintering of metal parts is not, in any stretch, going to be cheap for a home printer to do.

    And they said the world only needs 6 computers and no one would ever own a printing press in their own home. I mean come on - this isn't like time travel, all we need is refinement of the process to get a scale suitable for sale at wal-mart.

    Additionally, laser sintering cannot produce the hardened metal needed for the upper receiver.

    I'm willing to bet you can build all the parts strong enough for 50 shots no problem. That's more bullets than most criminals fire in a year.

    We are talking about dirt cheap weapons here. They will be disposable. So what if they don't last? When it costs less than $5 to make a new one, who cares?

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming