Ethics for Breakfast: 3-D Printed Guns and Shotgun Shells

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Buying a 3-D printer is as easy as swiping a credit card at a local Staples office supply store. If you’ve got a spare $1,300, you can own your very own piece of modern technology that can fabricate just about any item you possess the digital blueprints for, including a firearm. Not satisfied with gun created virtually out of thin air in your own home? Don’t worry, now you can print 3-D shotgun slugs. What are the ethical, and ultimately criminal, implications of a digital bullet fired from a digital gun? Many, and not many of them are all that positive. Our Utah gun crimes attorneys look into it.

Cheap Weapons That Work

With $25 worth of plastic, according to Gizmodo, you can create a handgun that fires up to nine shots using a 3-D printer. Published reports debunk Internet rumors that a “printed” firearm wouldn’t work or it would explode when the firing pin ignited gunpowder. Not true. It works, and it takes about 48 hours to create. Nine bullets is an awful lot of destructive power for a weapon that may not have telling marks that could help authorities track down the person responsible, if someone uses the gun to commit murder.

Check out the YouTube video imbedded here. The gun works, and according to reports, the only reason the tester decided to stop firing was that the sun went down, not because any component on the gun broke. Even if it did, 3-D printing technology allows someone to create new components on command. No parts to order, and minimal waiting.

utah gun crimes attorney

3-D printing isn’t new technology. In fact, it’s been around for decades, though the prices of printing machines have only recently come down into the realm of affordability for consumers. The system works by layering tiny beads of plastic (or metal depending on the machine) on top of one another using a digital blueprint uploaded into the machine. As long as you have the right raw materials and the appropriate schematics, you can make just about anything you want.

Problems for Law Enforcement with Fabricated Bullets?

Homemade ammunition is now possible with 3-D technology and a little bit of lead to fill the casing. With the right schematics, and more digital blueprints appear online every day, you can create slugs that won’t appear on a manufacturer’s roster. Tracing these self-created types of ammunition may be difficult for authorities simply because there’s no existing item to match them to for comparison. How can you trace ammunition and ballistics to a weapon and shell casings that you can melt down in a conventional oven?

Protecting the populace at large is a daily task for law enforcement that runs in 24 –hour cycles. In other words, there’s no downtime. It’ll be interesting to see how officials choose to tackle the emerging use of printing technology when coupled with its ability to create things that may be terribly dangerous. Each state has their own firearm restrictions, including who may possess them and who must register their weapons with local and state agencies. I wouldn’t want to go to jail over $25 worth of plastic – would you?


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