Congress is meeting to “fix” it. Trump is thinking about it. A judge has forbid it. What is it?
Information on a gun design. A computer program of sorts that tells a 3D printer how to print parts for guns.
Yes, it breaks many of the current gun banning (“control”) practices. Yes, it lets folks get guns that otherwise I might want disarmed. Yes, it even lets you make a gun that gets past X-ray detectors.
But all that is possible without the 3D printer controller plans.
Furthermore, ALL that is being blocked is one set of “how to” instructions from one guy. NOTHING can possibly prevent another guy from coming up with very similar plans. The concepts are pretty simple and the design work fairly minimal. The process makes pretty crappy guns anyway. (Plastic means the shell pressures must be kept very low and generally you will have 1 shot or a revolver with 6 shots that is HUGE due to the need for lots and lots of plastic to not blow up in your face.) For the AR-15 plans, only a few parts are 3D printed, the rest are bought and made of steel.
Now consider this:
I can, right now, buy a book of plans for gun designs. In fact, I already own 2 of them. One for EVERY military and most civilian guns up until about 1991 and the other for “improvised” guns. Guns made from water pipe, wood, and rubber bands. What’s more, I’d rather have one made with water pipe in my hand than one made of plastic. So we’ve already GOT the right to buy plans for making guns. Also consider that NOTHING prevents me from making a photo copy of a page or three and putting them in the mail to a friend. Gun making is 1800s era technology. It isn’t that hard.
Now, compare the 3D plan “issue”: NOTHING blocks my buying a 3D printer (in fact it would be brain dead to “control” 3D printers as they are going to become as common as toasters). NOTHING will block the sharing of plans for “how to” print various things on them. There are already web sites specializing in just that.
As different objects are scanned, their plans are shared. One of the current “hot items” is 3D printed hands for amputees. Another is 3D printer plans for making 3D printer parts… a bootstrapping operation for personal 3D printers. Now, I could choose to put those plans in an e-mail and send them to a friend. Are we going to have laws forbidding private communications? Hmmm? What about that constitutional right to free speech, eh?
Now look at that word “Scanned”. Usually a 3D printer is matched with a 3D scanner. When you want a new water cup, you put an existing one on the scanner. It makes the “plans” as a scanned image. You can now modify it if you like (taller, shorter, trim off bits) and send that to the 3D printer. Just what is going to prevent me from taking, say, the grips on my Colt and scanning them, then printing a couple of new ones? Or borrow a friends 3D printed revolver and scan the parts? Er, nothing. No law can do it. It is all behind closed doors person to person with no information trail.
At most, banning internet sharing can slow down the rate of diffusion of information by a small amount. But in reality, not that much slower. Private sharing networks will do the deed.
Even “scanning” all email to detect the gun plans won’t work. Just encrypt the plan before attaching it. Now it’s just a bag of bits with no pattern.
So, AT BEST, banning this practice can move it to an interchange of plans “below the radar” as encrypted email attachments.
It is also quite possible to just set up an account in some other country without that ban and publish the plans there. EVEN IF YOU BLOCK THE SITE; it will be downloaded by millions and then enter the email exchange. (Or the “Dark Web”…)
It is just sooo incredibly stupid and full of hubris to think that it is even remotely possible to prevent information from flowing or speech (even if machine speech) from happening. Similarly incredibly stupid and full of hubris is the idea that what is done with 3D printers can be limited. These are NOT complicated devices and even if they were all forced to be made with Big Brother Inside, then you could just roll your own without. The plans already exist in the wild.
Which brings me to the final point:
The 3D Gun plans are also already in the wild. When this first came up, loads and loads of folks downloaded the plans prior to the shutdown of the site. I was one of them. I’ve lost track of exactly where they are. Some archive somewhere or some old computer in the garage. IF I really cared enough, though, I could find them. Now unless you intend to rummage through every archive on the planet and search every garage and every drop box in the Cloud, you can not eradicate that information. Nor can you prevent it from being shared. If not via a web site, or the dark web, then via email or even “sneaker net” as USB sticks hand to hand (or even via UPS…)
So Congress is going to run off to tilt at windmills. The Dimocrats have announced that this next election cycle their theme will be gun banning (“control”) as they think this is a winning ticket for them. Expect the 3D plastic crummy guns to be played up as Evil Incarnate for the process.
Yet it is very clear that it is not possible to prevent the diffusion of the plans by many other means. It is not possible to prevent other folks creating such plans on their own. There is fundamentally no way to prevent the 3D printers from printing them. Suppression of 3D printing would do far far more harm than good. (Think kids with no hands and no 3D printed prosthetics arriving). Then consider that it is already too late to prevent the plans from existing “in the wild”.
There is an incredibly Stupidity Of Congressmen about to spend days of their lives claiming to do the impossible to prevent a non-problem from happening, when it is already a done deal. They will stand before the ocean and shout “Stop Damn Tide!” and be surprised at their wet feet…
It is far far easier, and far far more lethal, for a Terrorist to rent a truck and drive down the sidewalk than to bother taking a couple of weeks and several $Thousand dollars to buy or build a 3D printer and make a lousy bulky plastic 3D revolver with 6 low pressure (so very low power) shots in it.
By far the better place to put attention would be on identifying those folks of ill intent and getting THEM off the streets and off the internet.