Recently we had a guest speaker on campus talking about the legality of 3D Printed Guns. Josh Blackman, an Assistant Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law, presented a topic that could potentially have a huge impact on our society. In the interest of full disclosure, he informed everyone at the very start that he was currently representing an individual who is currently fighting to make his design for a 3D printed gun available on the internet completely free and open source. This essentially means that anyone that wants to download and print this gun or even modify it would be free to do so without fear some massive corporation is going to come down on their head due to copy right infringement. This can be both a good and a bad thing for a few reasons, the biggest con being that it can be modified to intentionally create a defect or insert malicious code. Generally I would argue that open source is a very good thing but it does have drawbacks.
In any case getting back to the topic at hand, Mr. Blackman would argue that we absolutely entitled to print guns under the second amendment and may share the information under the first. Even homemade weapons are covered under the law stating that you may legally create your own gun for your own personal use though you can’t give that weapon away or sell it. So as the laws are currently all of these things are completely legal and there are many that would argue that this can be a problem. For example, though many people can create guns without a 3D printer, there is a barrier to entry since machining your own gun parts takes a specific skill set. Meanwhile, with a 3D printed gun this barrier has been removed. If you can download a file, you can print a gun. The only barrier to entry with a 3D printed gun becomes money. 3D printers currently are not cheap and the material used to print the objects isn’t cheap either. This could also potentially put guns into the hands of people would otherwise couldn’t obtain the guns legally. It should also be said though that this has never stopped criminals from getting guns in the past though. However, this can still be much different than having to track down an illegal gun dealer vs just printing one safely hidden away in your own home.
3D guns still have a lot of issues, such as the fact they often break after one or two uses, but improvements in design could create a lot of issues. The entire debate is fascinating and if you were to have the opportunity to see Josh Blackman speak on the issue I would highly encourage you to watch. Personally, I don’t necessarily agree with all his opinions about 3D printed guns and how it should be handled though I can appreciate the fact he makes his argument very well. I absolutely agree that the government shouldn’t be allowed to regulate what information we can or cannot have. The entire issue is extremely complex for a multitude of reasons, and I for one will be interested to see how it all turns out.