Another 3D Printed Gun

Canada Looks the Other Way

Written by Joseph Carducci
Posted July 5, 2013 at 7:25PM

You may remember hearing about the Liberator, the plastic gun created on a 3D printer recently by a 25-year old Texas law student. Well, it seems almost the same thing has now been done in Canada.

Daniel Southwick and his research team at the University of Toronto's Critical Making Lab have indeed printed their own version – a non-firing version – of a 3D printed handgun.

3D printed gun canada

This 'gun' was actually modeled after the Liberator, created for the purpose of further testing the idea and alerting authorities to the possibilities that exist for abuse of this technology.

The team downloaded the Liberator plans from the Internet last fall before U.S. authorities had them removed. They changed the design plans to make the gun incapable of firing, since current Canadian laws make it illegal to create a working firearm, as the Star reports. Of course, these design modifications could also be easily undone. The gun is currently being kept under lock and key by the University.

While this 3D printed gun was developed on a sophisticated machine costing $50,000, this technology is becoming increasingly more affordable and accessible to everyday people. Staples (NASDAQ: SPLS) has even announced plans to produce a $1,300 personal 3D printer in the near future.

As technology continues to improve, the prices of these machines will continue their decline, making them available to just about everyone with the desire and a few hundred dollars to spare.

Canada Reacts

The development team did reach out to local law enforcement shortly after the completion of this project. They even offered to build a working version to give to the Toronto police department so they could better analyze and be made aware of the threat this technology might pose in the very near future. The police apparently declined the offer.

It seems the police services throughout Canada are unconcerned about 3D printed guns (or other weapons for that matter). While it is the case that there has not been a single crime committed in Canada with a 3D printed weapon, they are still not on the radar of many police and law enforcement agencies. The RMCP (Royal Mounted Canadian Police) has also stated it has no existing policies for 3D printed handguns and firearms and will continue to monitor the situation.

These reactions make those in the United States seem even more excessive. A small Danish company has even created a software program that it claim will prevent users from even printing the guns in the first place. Several cities and states have also introduced legislation that will prevent or criminalize the creation of 3D printed firearms. One New York State assembly member has plans to push this bill through in the next legislative session. California has also introduced a similar bill.

Police departments in the U.S. also seem to be a lot more worried about these types of firearms than those in Canada. According to The Atlantic, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to state and federal law enforcement groups specifically about these types of firearms. They cited public safety risks, noting that these weapons may be out of reach of regulators.

In short, the U.S. seems to be taking this much more seriously than Canada, with advocates for freedom battling those advocating strict regulation. Perhaps this was the original motivation of the University of Toronto developers?

The Future of 3D Weaponry

The developer of the first 3D printed gun, Cody Wilson, is not surprised and feels there will soon be many more people successfully printing weapons. He also has said there are plans online to make a sub machine gun quite easily from parts that can be found in a hardware store. Indeed, as the price of 3D printing technology continues to decline, more and more people are going to be attracted to something like this.

It is estimated that in Canada right now, a little more than 10,000 people have access to 3D printers. While no estimates were available for the U.S., it would clearly be several times this figure...and growing each day.

The real worry is two-fold: governments fear they will simply not be able to stop people from using this technology, and many people fear this will lead to draconian and strong-armed legislation that curtails the freedom of everyone – what normally happens in situations where the government feels that it does not have control.

Not to mention the possible mandates local law enforcement agencies might see that they cannot hope to realistically implement and control. Just a few figures will confirm how fast this trend should grow: In 2011, the market for 3D printing was thought to be around $1.7 billion. By 2019, the estimate is that the market will increase almost four times to $6.5 billion.

Will New Software Help?

The software mentioned above could be the weapon governments and law enforcement agencies use to be able to control this situation. Of course, it also might not matter. The 3D printed gun created by Mr. Wilson in Texas was actually made from 17 different parts. So, it could easily be created in pieces, possibly even at different times, and then assembled. There is not any software in the world that would be able to stop this from happening.

While it is also certainly possible that a number of 3D printer manufacturers will indeed buy this software and build it into there different models, there will always be ways around this. For example, someone skilled at programming would likely be able to disable the software. Businesses and industries would also likely not have this software placed on their models, and certain people would have access to these.

The real question the situation begs is this: would some government and law enforcement regulation prevent draconian legislation, or would it be the trigger that leads us there?


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