In case you didn't see any of the various media coverage, someone 3D-printed a metal gun. There is nothing you should be more worried about than that, except for literally everything else in the universe.
The company that pulled off the feat is called "Solid Concepts" and, as is the tradition in the DIY gun space, apparently, created a video about the weapon's construction. The science blog Phys.org describes the construction:
In this case, the printer uses what is known as a direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process—metal powder is heated to create a type of ink that can be used for printing. ... The newly printed gun, created using blueprints of a real handgun formerly used by the US military, was made by printing almost all of the parts—it was finished by assembling by hand. No machining was necessary, just some hand tooling.
You may remember that when Defense Distributed released plans for a 3D-printable weapon online earlier this year, we tried to get someone to print one for us and then tried printing it ourselves. Allow us to summarize our experience: The idea that anyone besides dedicated hobbyists would be able to easily construct a weapon using a home 3D-printer is optimistic. And even if they did, they'd still need a bullet.
But what the Solid Concepts achievement tells us is this: For those with the capability to conduct high quality construction using expensive manufacturing devices, creating these guns is now a reality. You know who has expensive manufacturing devices and high quality construction? Gun companies. Getting freaked out by this would be like stumbling into a room at the Glock factory that's mass producing weapons and then fearing that, soon, every kid on every block would be operating gun factories in their basements. This does not scale down.
Nor does it achieve the most frightening part of the Defense Distributed weapon: invisibility. This is a metal gun. Part of the fear that stemmed from the plastic gun plan was that it couldn't be detected by security. Sure enough, the Daily Mail brought such a gun — sans bullet — onto a train in Britain. Trying to bring this gun past a metal detector at the airport would not bear much fruit.
The other thing we learned while trying to build a 3D-printed gun is that there are much easier ways to make an illegal gun. (And, we learned: printing a gun here in New York City was almost certainly illegal.) All you need in order to shoot a bullet is a firing pin and a tube. The bullet is in the tube, gets struck by the firing pin, and shoots out of the tube toward the thing that you want to see die. If your kid is looking to open a gun manufacturing facility in the basement, tell him to head to Home Depot and pick up some penny nails and piping. Maybe some rubber bands. And you should probably make sure that you've got a low-deductible health plan.
This is a manufacturing triumph, not a Second Amendment one. Congrats to Solid Concepts in that regard. But don't worry about their 3D-printed guns flooding our streets. Worry about Glock's.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.