By the middle of this week, anyone with internet access will be able to download blueprints to 3D print an untraceable gun.
This idea came from the pro-gun group Defense Distributed, which was founded by Cody Wilson.
He posted his blueprints online five years ago and the U.S. State Department ordered him to take it down. However, Wilson fired back, citing free speech rights, and won a lengthy legal battle last week.
The guns, which will return to the internet Aug. 1, can be produced on a 3D printer without a serial number and can be produced without a background check.
Beyond the simple concern about unregistered weapons, some see other dangers with the 3D-printed firearms.
“Mostly because we see the great potential in terms of harm to the user that’s unintentional because of the unsuitability of the material,” said Dave Dalton, operator of Hammerspace Community Workshop in Kansas City, Missouri.
Dalton points to history as a guide. People have been making guns for centuries albeit with different machines.
“The 3D printer just kind of throws a modern twist on an old problem,” he said.
One of the worries Dalton has is its affect on the younger generation.
“My biggest concern would be someone seeing these plans and thinking, ‘Oh, it’s so easy all I have to do is feed this into my printer and everything will be fine,’ and that’s not something anybody can guarantee because of the variability of 3D printing,” Dalton said.
The idea sparks outrage from gun-control advocates.
“I am appalled and I cannot fathom how anybody thinks that this makes any sense,” Judy Sherry of Grandparents Against Gun Violence said. “There’s no reason for it.”
Sherry said this allows people who can’t buy guns to get one: “Convicted felons, known domestic abusers, seriously mentally ill people can’t get a gun, and now they can,” she said.
The topic also found its way onto the campaign trail in the race for the Republican nomination to oppose U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is up for reelection in Missouri in November.
Republican candidate Austin Petersen, who advocates for repealing many existing gun laws, said, “The idea that there would be more crime because there’s more access to guns is way off.”
That’s why Petersen is giving away a “Ghost Gunner 2,” which is a milling machine instead of a 3D printer to create a gun.
“If a criminal wants to commit a crime with a gun, then they can always just saw off the barrel or they can just drill off the serial number off a gun that they can steal, so criminals don’t obey laws by definition,” he said.
Petersen admitted that 3D-printed guns currently aren’t safe.
“At the moment, they are really unreliable,” he said. “I wouldn’t recommend that anyone make a 3D-printed gun, because most of the tests that I’ve seen right now show that they will explode and they’re very dangerous and they haven’t perfected the technology.”