3D-printed plastic weapons: a new terror?

3D-printed plastic weapons: a new terror?

A judge in the United States prevented a possible nightmare for citizen security from coming true. The judge's order blocked a web page where files with weapon designs could be downloaded. Those designs could easily be turned into real objects with 3D printers… Anyone could therefore make a weapon with this method. Even in a country as liberal with this issue as the United States, there is great controversy with this. Because the weapons would not have serial numbers, nor identification of the owner , nor would there be control over how many would be made. Let's see what implications this topic can have.

Plastic weapons: prohibited

Many years ago the problem arose: technology made it possible to manufacture weapons in plastic material. To such an extent it was seen that this could pose a huge risk, that they were prohibited in the United States . The original law is from 1988 and is called the "Undetectable Firearms Act". It was once signed by President Ronald Reagan: it made any plastic weapon illegal. Recently (2016) the internal Bureau dedicated (to alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives) renewed the law, which is still fully in force.

Plastic gun and ammo

Why? There is an obvious reason that he is the first to raise the alarms. The security of many buildings, including airports, relies on metal detectors. It is assumed that a “risk” (weapon) will set off that alarm, be it a knife or a firearm. With ceramic knives (which would not make it jump and are no less dangerous) they have not yet been “put”. But when weapons with plastic components came onto the market (the Austrian Glock was popular for that), things changed. Although that and others had several metallic parts (like the same barrel, or the ammunition), laws like that one were generalized.

Is a weapon possible without anything metallic? Yes, and what is more worrying, it is not impossible that the ammunition is not metallic either. There have been cartridges with non-metallic sheaths for a long time (those of shotgun only have the metallic base). And there are plastic projectiles (the bullet) of various types and uses (hunting or military). If pistons and other metal components are used, it is for convenience, because if "necessary" a terrorist could find another solution .

3D printing: anyone can make a weapon

The controversy in the United States has jumped because the DEFCAD website wanted to publish (that is, make public) files with 3D designs of weapons . These are complete "kits": the file is downloaded and the parts are printed on a home 3D printer. Then it is assembled following the instructions and… we already have a short or long weapon in our hands. Nobody knows if we have printed and assembled one or ten. Nobody knows who we are or what intentions (or antecedents) we have. And, to begin with, the Trump administration did not object. After the judicial decision and the controversy, he is thinking about it.

AR10 rifle butchered

What the creator of the web defends is that, if in the United States there is (relative) freedom to have weapons… the right of citizens to defend themselves should not be impeded by prohibiting this idea. The National Rifle Association itself has frowned on this idea, and they have communicated it to Trump. There will be commercial interests behind, without a doubt. But like anyone they are scared to think how far that can go. Although in certain circles (such as the dark web) this has been going on for a long time ...

Armed and uncontrolled? Ammo will be the key

The sight of a weapon usually generates fear and concern to anyone. But as anyone who has ever owned or dealt with weapons knows, firearms alone are harmless. Ammunition is needed, load them: then things change. But without ammunition, a knife is more dangerous: edged weapons are always loaded. So, if in the end that website goes ahead, or if we take for granted that weapon designs for 3D printers "circulate", the only form of control will be the ammunition .

Gun Mechanisms

Unfortunately in many countries, weapons are subject to more or less strict controls, but ammunition not so much. Even in Spain, where in theory it is very well controlled. What is Spanish law like? You need a gun license (personal) and a “guide” (the documentation for each gun) to buy it, and there are quantity limits. Who has a handgun (license B) can only acquire 100 cartridges a year and they are marked in the guide of the weapon. A long rifled weapon (rifle or carbine) allows you to buy up to 1,000 cartridges per year, once again controlled and without being able to accumulate more than 200. Small game longs (shotguns) have more freedom (unlimited cartridges). Weapons for sports use (license F) can only use internal ammunition from the firing range. But the reality is that they are less controlled than the weapons themselves.

The American case

Behind the DEFCAD website is a Texas-based group, Defense Distributed. They are led by Cody Wilson (founder) and Josh Blackman, the group's attorney. We can see the first in his videos. They are the ones who believe that access to weapons should be further liberalized thanks to technology: universal access to the internet and 3D printers. When the court shutdown came to the web, DEFCAD had already released designs for 10 weapons , including a spectacular AR-15 rifle. Older versions of DEFCAD weapons are available on the internet, even in Pirate Bay. You don't even have to go to the dark web ... they've been there for five years.

defcad web

Eight American states have supported or promoted the ban: Washington, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Columbia. Twenty others have shown their support, with reservations as they are still not clear on the President's position . Wilson posted this message on his website after the closure: “This site, after legally sharing its files with the public thanks to a license from the State Department, has been ordered to close by a federal judge in Washington. If you want to free the web, join us ”. We will see how this legal mess in the United States will end, which can have many implications outside of your country.