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Tuesday, 07 August 2018 06:12

Watch Out for More Carnage From 3-D-Printed "Ghost Guns"

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plasticguns3dThis is a plastic squirt gun, but soon individuals will likely be manufacturing real plastic guns. (Mark Strozier)

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A new frontier for technology has been developing that allows people to fabricate products through a 3-D carving machine that uses instructions to program the molding. Texan Cody Wilson, a gun rights advocate and anarchist, has been battling the government for years to distribute schematics of programs for manufacturing plastic guns out of homes, garages and other locations used by individuals. He claims, amid the legal wrangling, that he has still been able to offer the programming to more than a millions people who have downloaded his instructions.

It is true that plastic guns are illegal in the United States, as the NRA admitted in a recent email news release:

“Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the Internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years. Federal law passed in 1988, crafted with the NRA’s support, makes it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive an undetectable firearm.”

That statement is accurate (except for the self-proclaimed inclusion of the "NRA's support"), but it doesn't express any opposition to the distribution of gun-making instructions that are downloadable on the internet. This sort of de facto support for the expansion of gun manufacturing while claiming speciously to be against plastic guns is a telling example of the NRA's standard mode of operation. Indeed, Wilson is offering downloads that can create an AR-15 assault rifle. The likelihood that 3-D plastic guns would enter the underground gun market is quite high, and the NRA knows it. It is in favor of any means to advance the number of guns in the US.

The State Department under Obama, for technical reasons associated with arms exports, had seemingly enjoined Wilson from disseminating the schematics. However, just this June, Trump's administration removed the restrictions.

According to a July 20 CNN article,

The settlement, which is dated June 29, says that Wilson and Defense Distributed can publish plans, files and 3-D drawings in any form and exempts them from the export restrictions. The government also agreed to pay almost $40,000 of Wilson's legal fees and to refund some registration fees.

It is no surprise that a Trump tweet on July 31 tried to conceal that agreement by attempting to appear to be concerned about the issue, when Trump's administration had already settled a suit that not only allows Wilson to distribute the plans but also paid him $40,000 in legal fees.

Wilson, however, faced a challenge in the courts by Democratic states attorneys general, as Truthout's Mike Ludwig explained in an August 4 Truthout article:

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s latest shots across President Trump’s bow were heard around the country. Backed by other Democratic attorneys general, Ferguson sued the administration on Tuesday for abruptly ditching a legal effort to prevent a Libertarian developer from posting blueprints for 3-D printing lethal guns on his website, allowing a federal judge in Seattle to issue an injunction blocking their release just hours before the gun schematics were scheduled to go online. Alarming headlines about homemade guns thrust Ferguson into the national spotlight.

According to a July 31 article in The New York Times announcing the ruling on August 1 that blocked further release of schematics online:

The attorneys general had urged a judge to block Mr. Wilson’s plans on the grounds that allowing the company to continue posting the blueprints online is a threat to public safety and that terrorists could use hard-to-trace plastic weapons to evade detection by metal detectors.

“3-D printed guns are functional weapons that are often unrecognizable by standard metal detectors because they are made out of materials other than metal (e.g., plastic) and untraceable because they contain no serial numbers,” the state officials said in the lawsuit. “Anyone with access to the CAD files and a commercially available 3-D printer could readily manufacture, possess or sell such a weapon.”

Although the 3-D manufacturing machines are currently upward of $1,000, the price break is not insurmountable for someone going into the illicit business of selling them out of homes and car trunks. They will likely function as illegal distilleries did during prohibition. The NRA knows that development would likely expand the "gun franchise."

Meanwhile, the American shooting gallery continues to leave death and injury in its wake. The Chicago Tribune reported on the gunfire toll in just one seven-hour toll this past weekend:

Starting about midnight Saturday, at least 41 people were shot citywide, five fatally, in a period of less than seven hours as gunmen targeted groups at a block party, after a funeral, on a front porch and in other gatherings, according to authorities.

Plastic guns manufactured by 3-D technology will only enhance the US's reputation as the shooting capital of the world.