Tag Archives: 3D printer

Lawmakers, Activists Showing Support for 3D Printed Guns

On December 17, Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie and 14 other Republican lawmakers filed an amicus brief on behalf of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organization that designs weapons that may be downloaded and printed with a 3D printer.

Defense Distributed is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the U.S. State Department over the legality of publicly posting blueprints of 3D printable weapons online. In 2013, DD’s founder Cody Wilson created the world’s first 3D printed handgun. Shortly after Wilson posted the blueprints online for free downloading, he was contacted by the State Department and told that his designs were under the jurisdiction of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The State Department insisted that “this means that all data should be removed from public access immediately.”

After months of delays, Defense Distributed filed a lawsuit requesting an injunction that would keep the Obama administration from blocking the posting of the blueprints for the “Liberator” 3D printed gun.

Massie stated that “the State Department’s improper and unconstitutional interpretation of federal law is likely to chill scientific and technological advancement in the United States.” The brief also noted that Massie is an MIT-trained engineer and inventor, as well as a Member of the Committee on Science, Space & Technology.

“We expect the Court to recognize that the State Department exceeded the authority granted to it by Congress and violated the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution,” Massie stated.

The day after Massie’s brief was filed, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit focused on protecting civil liberties, also filed a brief in support of Defense Distributed.

“The State Department claimed that publishing the files on the Internet could violate the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which controls the international export of defense-related technology. After suggesting Defense Distributed put in an administrative request to determine whether the files were, in fact, controlled, the State Department sat on the request for nearly two years—only acting after Defense Distributed sued. It then concluded that a license was required to publish most of the files at issue,” the EFF wrote.

The EFF’s brief also noted that “the scope of [International Traffic in Arms Regulations]’s prohibition on speech could apply to members of the press republishing newsworthy technical data, professors educating the public on scientific and medical advances of public concern, enthusiasts sharing otherwise lawful information about firearms, domestic activists trading tips about how to treat tear gas or resist unlawful surveillance, and gun control opponents expressing a point about proliferation of weapons.”

The Cato Institute filed an amicus brief calling on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to defend the First Amendment right of Americans to share open-source technical information.

As Cato writes, “Defense Distributed is not in the business of distributing arms. What it distributes, as properly recognized by the district court, is computer code in the form of CAD and other files. Code and digital files are speech for purposes of the First Amendment, as several federal appellate courts have recognized. Most importantly, simply because speech may be used for unlawful purposes by third parties doesn’t mean it loses constitutional protection.”

The topic of 3D printed guns is likely to continue to be a contentious topic of debate as gun violence is the focus of much of the media. Police in Queensland, Australia recently busted a crystal-methamphetamine lab with several weapons produced with 3D printers. The bust came shortly after Australia passed legislation to regulate 3D printed weapons.

The U.S. government can craft as many pieces of legislation as they’d like, but the fact remains that if people want to commit violence or want means of self-defense they will use whatever means are at their disposal, including creating weapons with emerging technologies. 3D printed weapons, like all technology, are simply tools that can be applied in any number of ways. The state fails every time they attempt to legislate morality or attempts to create security through statism.

For more information on DefenseDistributed vs. U.S. State Department check out this recent interview with Cody Wilson.


Man Reportedly Uses 3D Printer to Develop Homemade Railgun

An Imgur user uploaded pictures and video last week of a homemade railgun that he apparently created with a 3D printer. The above-embedded video demonstrates the weapon being used to fire an aluminum rod.


A railgun is a type of projectile launcher that uses electricity and electromagnetic energy rather than explosives and propellants to fire projectiles.

The man, who goes by the username “NSA_Listbot” on Imgur and Reddit, claims that the “railgun is capable of firing copper plated tungsten, aluminum, carbon and teflon/plasma” at speeds exceeding 560 miles per hour. He noted that the “railgun uses 6 300J, 350V, 5500uF capacitors which combined weigh 20lbs and can deliver >1050V and 1.8kJ of energy to the projectile.

It isn’t likely lethal, but it would definitely hurt,” he pointed out in a Reddit discussion on the do-it-yourself project.

[RELATED: New Facebook Feature Alerts Users of State-Sponsored Cyberattacks]

Engadget identified the weapon’s designer as David Wirth and noted, “It indeed works just like a full-sized railgun, using parallel electrodes to fire an ‘armature’ bullet.

Wired’s Cara McGoogan wrote, “Railguns are more commonly associated with military operations and NASA. The 3D printed railgun is far less powerful than military-grade prototypes. In 2012, BAE Systems tested a railgun that can fire at 5,600 mph. The most powerful railgun on record — created by the US military — produced 10.64 million joules.”

Though NSA_Listbot described the weapon as handheld and included features in its design that would at least appear to provide that functionality, McGoogan says, “The claim that the railgun is ‘handheld’ is dubious — the capacitors alone have a combined weight of 9kg. And the gun is almost as long as it is tall.

Another test firing of the weapon, this time with a carbon rod as the projectile of choice, can be seen below. The weapon’s creator said of this attempt, “I have no idea what happened to that piece of carbon- probably just vaporized.

Gun Rights Backers Take Small Victory: DC Lawmakers Fail to Pass Law on 3D-Printed Firearms

Article submitted by guest contributor Ezra Van Auken.

3D Printed Gun

Although relatively small, gun rights advocates and the like took a victory on Monday, after the Senate voted to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 for another ten years. Here’s the catch. Despite the extension of a lengthy firearms bill, policymakers were unable to add provisions regulating the development and use of 3D-printed firearms, a new phenomenon in the tech world.

The law’s extension, originally passed through in the mid-1980s, deems it illegal for companies to manufacture, transfer or sell any firearm that’s undetectable by conventional metal detectors. In addition, the bill mandated that all firearms must contain 3.7oz of metal, and if firearms are being shipped through airport security, there cannot be features on the firearm that distort the original image.

Both the House and Senate had no dilemma passing the original text. However, when it came to adding a provision regarding 3D-printed firearms and removable metal, there was complication. After House members who opposed unrestricted 3D-printed firearms failed to collect support, Senate policymakers tried, and failed. Senate Republicans withdrew their support for an amendment that would require all weapons to contain non-removable metal.

The reason policymakers chose a provision to require all gun manufacturers to implement permanent metal piecing is because under current law, there is no restriction on removable metal, making all plastic 3D-firearms with removable metal legal.

Senator Charles Schumer introduced the provision, which was ultimately targeting 3D-printed firearms, but other Senators including Republicans instructed that Schumer’s provision was open-ended and not easily understood. Shouldering eager Democrats, Sen. Charles Grassley said, “Congress needs to gain an understanding of printed gun manufacturing technology and its relation to permanent metal parts.”

According to Schumer, the “gun industry” has practically been absent from debate. The Democratic Senator applauded the gun lobby for not intervening or participating in the debate over 3D-printed firearm rights. Optimistic, both parties believe the future debate over the 3D firearm market will see compromise, and eventual law would be passed. Just before deadline, President Obama signed the 3D-empty extension.

Gun-control advocates believe without additional provisions, metal pieces could be easily removed, providing a loophole for potential threats through security. And of course, the 3D-printed firearms would create black market business, whether good or bad, for individuals to purchase undocumented firearms. Despite federal failure to pass 3D-firearm restrictions, other states and cities are working on the very same issue.

Philadelphia, the first city to pass 3D-firearm legislation in the US, actually banned the manufacture and use of 3D-printed firearms. The city council, consisting of ten members, unanimously passed a 3D prohibition two weeks ago, marking the first restriction on 3D-printed firearms and parts. If violated, an unspecified fine would be applicable to the violator. Councilperson Johnson called the 3D-firearm technology a “recipe for disaster.”

When Johnson’s legislative director was asked, regardless of the law being passed, if the easy access of 3D technology provide criminals with a way to produce firearms, the director responded, “You could use that same line of thinking with any law.”

For gun advocates, the prescription of gun prohibition isn’t a solution, but rather a patch over the problem of violent crime. With the federal government looking to take a stab at 3D-printed firearm technology, the metal mandate could only be the start of a long and enduring process for 3D gun owners and manufacturers.