Gun Control: 3D Printed Guns Will Be Invisible To X-ray Machines & Metal Detectors

Experts now say that anyone who has a couple of thousand dollars for a 3D printer and an internet connection can make a 3D gun, which will be invisible to X-ray machines and metal detectors. In the U.S., critics of the technology are warning it has reached a dangerous point, with federal law banning undetectable firearms set to expire in less than two weeks. 3D printing will trigger a new twist in US gun controls, but registering a printer or materials won't be effective, Technology analyst Melba Kurman told RT.

RT: Philadelphia's become the first US city to ban the unlicensed printing of 3D weapons - so does that mean they pose a serious threat to society?




Melba Kurman: I think right now it's important to remember that it's really very, very early on in the technology, and one of the things that's unfortunate is that it's the first time when many people heard about 3D printing technology in the context of printed weapons. I think Philadelphia's reaction was a little bit hasty, but given the challenges and the tragedies that we've had in the United States with the epidemic of mass shootings, I understand the emotion behind it.

RT: A working 3D gun made from metal was printed by a machine that cost about a million dollars. But the economics there surely don't make sense - you could go out and buy a gun for a tiny fraction of that.

MK: I think the key question is how dangerous it is and that's behind a lot of fear and concern. The company in Texas who actually does have a license to manufacture fire arms, 3D-printed a very nice metal gun, however the printer they fabricated it on is actually is a very expensive industrial-grade printer.

So with that said we come back to the question of how dangerous these 3D printed weapons are. If you are looking at the low end 3D printers, the one that prints cheaper plastic, that in my mind is where the real danger lies with these 3D printed plastic guns. There is a two-fold danger behind the low end printers and plastic guns. One is just a consumer safety, if somebody makes a printed gun in the privacy of their own home, not only, of course, they are doing this illegally because they don't have a license to manufacture it, but actually they are posing a danger to themselves, in the sense the gun may explode in their hands or it may fire a couple of rounds and behave in an unpredictable way because this is a home-made weapon after all. The second danger and I think this is probably where a lot of legislators and law-makers are going, is the fact that a plastic gun can't be detected by metal detectors, which are traditionally used in airports, schools and public places to detect metal fire arms.

RT: Could someone print a plastic 3D gun, bring it through metal detectors and kill pretty much anyone, anywhere - even in the White House?

MK: Yes, you could. And I think this pulls us closer to the real danger, being amateur produced plastic weapons. In the US the black market has always existed, if you really want to buy a high-grade firearm, or a gun, it's always been possible to get one. In fact, in many states, and this is regulated at the state level in the US, it's actually not even difficult to get a weapon legally. So the fact that a 3D printer that prints high-grade metal parts can make a very nice metal 3D printed gun, that's not so much the danger right now as these consumer guns.

But looking forward, let's say we go forward 10 years, given the drop in prices of the 3D printing technologies, it is simply going to be a matter of time and it's going to happen, when these metal 3D printers that can print very high-grade metal parts will be affordable. Now this is a sort of machine only affordable to professional designers, engineering firms and companies, but when the price drops below 5-10,000 dollars, then people will be able to access those machines.

RT: Most of the plastic 3D guns reportedly explode when used - so how much longer before more reliable ones can be printed at home by anyone?

MK: I think that Philadelphia's reaction won't be an effective response. I understand the emotion behind it, but when you look at other platform technologies like computers, 3D printing technology is also a powerful and destructive technology in the sense that it enables ordinary people to design and make physical things. The urge and the decision to start tracking and banning the actually technologies themselves for fear that very few people will misuse the technology to create weapons, that's unfortunately not only unrealistic, but I don't think it's the right approach at all.

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