The tragic shooting in Newtown last December catapulted the debate over gun control back in the political arena. Opinions are riding high on both sides of the aisle, but the legislative process is moving extremely slowly. Meanwhile, technological developments are racing forward, developments that will make it much more difficult for governments around the world to effective control the supply of firearms.
Defense Distributed has manufactured and test fired the world’s first gun made almost entirely with a 3D printer. Now, 3D printers can be purchased at Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) and the blueprints to the Liberator — which was first fired on May 1 — are available online. Fifteen components of the 16-piece firearm were manufactured using 3D printer plastic, and together they took just 24 hours to print. The only piece that was not printed was the firing pin.
Cody Wilson, the 25-year old law student in charge of Defense Distributed, stated on his website that his goal is to produce and publish a file for a completely printable gun. “If we truly believe information should be free, that the internet is the last bastion of freedom and knowledge, and that societies that share are superior to societies that censor and withhold, then why not guns?” he wrote on Defense Distributed’s website.
Naturally, this development has caused some concern in Washington among gun control advocates. Forbes posted photographs of the Liberator last Friday, and within hours, Democratic representative Steve Israel of New York resumed his campaign for the passage of the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act.
“Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser,” Israel said in a statement. “When I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology appears to be upon us, we need to act now to extend the ban on plastic firearms.”
Because Defense Distributed received a federal firearms license in March, the company would not be affected by Israel’s proposed legislation — which would make it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy or sell any firearm, receiver or magazine that was undetectable by metal detectors or X-ray machines. But Wilson is concerned about how it would impact the average citizen if passed. “It looks like they stand a fair chance of regulating 3D printing,” Wilson told TheBlaze, adding that that he is worried that the bill’s provision would ban individuals from making 3D printed components like high-capacity magazines.
To print the Liberator, Defense Distributed used a 3D printer that was purchased on eBay for $8,000. But the average citizen looking to make a similar weapon can buy a 3D printer from Staples, which stocks 3D Systems’ Cube 3D printer priced at $1,299.
As this technology provides an opportunity for a whole new market, investors are already bidding up shares of 3D printer manufacturers — including 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD), which trades at a PE of 95.78, and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS), which trades at a PE of 230.56.