3-d printed high-capacity magazines

In class Monday we talked for a moment about whether and how news stories about new technology could be ethically significant. I said that if technology changes the ways we live and interact with each other, then a new piece of technology might be very ethically significant.

Here is a great example. Forbes has an interesting write-up about Defense Distributed, a group using 3-d printers to create high-capacity ammunition magazines. (See also this article at The Verge.) People are using 3-d printers to print high-capacity magazines to hold bullets for assault rifles. Magazines holding more than ten rounds used to be banned. Since the Newtown shooting, there is growing support for banning them again. Well, how effective would a ban be if people could just download the design and print one from home?

Of course this issue goes well-beyond just gun magazines or even firearms in general. 3-d printing promises to allow DIYers to manufacture things that, up to now, have had to come from large factories. In many ways, this should be great. But what about people who want to manufacture something illegal or dangerous?

10 Responses to 3-d printed high-capacity magazines

  1. Gun control is of course an entirely separate issue, but this technology has already been used to do things that could pose more of a threat to the public safety than “high capacity” magazines. See this article about the printing of a lower receiver (http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/142265-the-first-open-source-3d-printed-gun). That is the part of the weapon that is serialized and contains the trigger housing group allowing for single, burst, or automatic fire. The version that was produced did work but was not very durable. Also, consider people printing silencers or ATM skimmers (http://krebsonsecurity.com/2011/12/pro-grade-3d-printer-made-atm-skimmer/).

    I do not believe the original intention was for all of these “negative” things to be created with a 3-D printer, however the beneficial potential this has for society outweighs the down sides. The ability to fabricate ones own pieces could help increase the contribution of new ideas since it is no longer restricted to people with a specific skill set and tools such as welding or machining.

  2. PMazzarella24

    I do not think a ban could be enforced even without this kind of technology. The “assault weapons” ban, which included a ban on high-capacity magazines, has been lifted since 2004 which has allowed many people to have access to high-capacity magazines. With a ban enacted, if someone really wanted to obtain a high-capacity magazine they wouldn’t have to look very far because even without this technology many people have been stockpiling the magazines in anticipation of such a ban. The market is flooded more than ever. With that said a ban on high-capacity magazines would just make it much harder for such a ban to be enforced with this kind of technology readily available.

    People have been using technology for unintended purposes since technology has been around so why would a 3-D printer be any different? Q-Tips, WD-40, Arm and Hammer Baking Soda are all used for purposes other than which they were originally intended for. Are they inherently dangerous? No, but some MacGyver type out there could probably find away to hurt someone with these products. There is no way to stop some malcontented person who is seeking to use technology other than what it was intended for. The possibilities of creating tools and parts instead of having to go out and buy them will make life easier for many people. The benefits of 3-D technology far outweigh the negatives.

    • But it seems to me that 3-d printers give a malcontented person (even one who is not a MacGyver type) so much more power than they would have had before.

      The extreme versatility of 3-d printers is what makes them so potentially beneficial, but it also makes them so extraordinarily dangerous.

  3. As we discussed in class, this can be a good example of how technological progress exceeds our expectations. Although one of the most important applications of 3D printers has been in the medical field as prostheses or copying the performance of important surgical procedures. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/technology / 14print.html? pagewanted = all & _r = 0)
    We see that this is beyond our imagination because personally I would not feel safe boarding a plane now thinking someone might shoot me. Since copies of the weapons that were made in the 3D printer were made of plastic they could pass security checks without any problem. It is expected that in time we will try to improve this prototype. And who knows we may perhaps make an even more lethal weapon. Even the army of the United States in May 2012 invested $60 million dollars in the production of 3D printing. That means that in the future by having access to this kind of printers you will be able to choose a la carte models of your choosing and get any kind of weapon at the touch of a button. I wonder how the National Rifle Association (NRA) is going to react to this topic. They have without exception opposed any and all restrictions on the sale of firearms. Will they oppose or promote this new technology? After the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut we should ask ourselves if we are more vulnerable now than ever before, particularly if people will now be able to make any kind of weapon of mass destruction that they choose, without any restrictions. I believe that there should be some kind of regulation as soon as possible that would respond to this potential Pandora’s box.

  4. This is a very interseting development. I’m sure when the technology for 3d printing was initially being devoloped, the creators didn’t intend, or even imagine, for them to be used to create weapons of any kind. This is a good example of technology exceeding or diverging from our initial intentions. They way things are going, 3d printers should be very reasonably priced in the near future and could reach a point where most households have them.

    Despite the potential for weaponry to be created, people can also download the design for many things that were previously hard to obtain or expensive. It could undermine the automotive industry for companies like cadilac, jaguar, and other compainies (typically high-end) that create a unique set of parts for thier cars, forcing customers to come back to them to get work done or order parts. This would completely change the industry if you could just ‘torrent’ a design off the internet. It could even bring some cars ‘back from the dead’, such as classic cars, where the parts cannot even be found or are so rare they became extremely expensive. If anything, it would make restoring classic cars much easier and unbelivably cheaper.

    Along with car parts, there are contless examples of parts that can be created instead of beig bought. This could even alter our international tade with countries where we get most of our parts and things made and shipped from. I think the introduction of the househole 3d printer could have a huge effect on the way the world works. It would definately make bans on things like guns/high capacity magazine futile and might actually cause more people to want to get a hold of more and bigger firearms. I think we are still just seeing the potential/gravity this new technology will bring.

    • I think the car part example is really useful to think about. If I have, say, a 2002 Nissan Altima, and I badly crack the plastic bumper, that’s going to cost a lot of money to get fixed. Labor would be part of the price, obviously. But a big part of the price is the proprietary part that (I assume) has to come from Nissan. It would be a lot cheaper if I could print my own bumper. And, even if I didn’t print it myself, there still might be some cost savings if the repair shop could print it themselves (instead of ordering it).

      But here’s the issue: A bumper is not intellectual property, but the design of the bumper is. If I downloaded the bumper design (using a torrent or Rapidshare or whatever), Nissan might argue that I am infringing on their intellectual property rights.

      As 3-d printers become the norm, there is going to be a whole new category of important intellectual property: 3-d object designs. As with songs, books, articles, software code, etc., companies will fight to restrict access to the intellectual property, and users will fight to gain unauthorized access to it.

      • If you can’t back up DVD on computers in case they get scratched. I doubt US intellectual laws with allow you to make a “back up ” copy of your bumper or any other physical good.

  5. Personally I see this as a good thing. It will make it nearly impossible for the government to ban any sort of physical property which as a voluntarist/anarcho-capitalist I feel very strongly about.

    • bakerdavidj, great link and a provocative comment. Are you suggesting that the government should not be able to ban possession of any sort of physical/material objects?

      I can, perhaps, see the justification for this on some sort of uncompromising rights-based ethical theory. However, if ethics considers any factors pertaining to the consequences of actions, I think there will be good justifications for banning at least some objects. To take an extreme case, shouldn’t the government be able to ban very dangerous objects, like certain sorts of weapons of mass destruction? The consequences of even one slightly disturbed or malevolent person having WMDs could be so bad that there seems to be a very strong reason for banning them.

  6. Yes, I do believe that it is wrong for one group (government or not) to prevent an individual from owning anything. I justify this by the Non-aggression principle(NAP). Since their is no way for anyone but the distributors of a commodity to prevent someone from acquiring it without initiating force only they can decide who can and cannot own their product. Even their control is limited by the fact that once they sell it the new owner may do with it as they wish, since it is their property, and no one can stop them without initiating violence which the NAP states is wrong.

    I would argue that a third party (such as a government) to prevent someone from owning WMDs, it is however wrong for anyone to use them in such a way that anyone is affected. Also, I would say given the governments record with WMDs they can hardly claim to have the moral high ground here. I would say if we should stop anyone from having WMDs and assault weapons it should be the government since they and others like them have killed millions more than individual killers. Also you have to consider that WMDs are pretty well restricted by price. Also as stated before the person making the WMD is the one who decides who it can be sold to so I would probably have to say that it is immoral for them to sell a WMD (since there is no pure self defense use for it) to anyone and it might even be immoral to make one for anything other than research purposes.