They talked about it like it was some sort of technological doomsday.
August 1st was supposed to be the day when ready-made blueprints for 3D printed guns would be released on the internet, and allow anyone to manufacture unlicensed, and untraceable, deadly weapons in their living rooms.
When Alfredo Orejuela heard about all this, his reaction was something like an eye-roll.
Orejuela is the CEO of STEAMporio. He manufacturers cheap, easy to use 3D printers for sale to schools and maker studios. And he considers the battle over 3D printed guns long over — he’s been experimenting with 3D printed plastic guns for years. The blueprints, regardless of what a judge says, were already out there.
“We're in an era where people can get the latest Drake album or Infinity War at will,” he told VICE News. “To think you can control or stop the flow of data on the internet is absolutely ludicrous.”
The gun-blueprints project started about five years ago, when Cody Wilson, a self-described crypto-anarchist and gun enthusiast, released online the designs for a fully 3D printed gun he called the Liberator.
They were available for only a few days before the government ordered him to take them down; in that time, the schematics were downloaded tens of thousands of times.
Wilson told VICE News that he is on an ideological mission: to prove that abundant guns in America are inevitable — and that gun control is doomed.
“There's literally more guns than people, maybe two guns for every person in this country,” Wilson said. “You know you don't need a 3D printer to get to your nightmare scenario.”
Orejuela doesn't share Wilson's vision. He's no fan of firearms. But on this he agrees with Wilson: the ease of acquiring guns is not a consequence of 3D printing.
For one thing, Orejuela says, the guns that 3D printing machines make really aren’t all that good: To produce one that would function without exploding takes days of painstaking work, and thousands of dollars of machinery. (Wilson concedes this much: The Liberator, he told VICE, “doesn’t really work.”) There are already easy-to-use machines that can make high quality guns, or the parts for guns, much more cheaply — including a CNC machine, which can produce parts out of metal.
What happens in the future is anyone’s guess — and Orejuela agrees it’s a certainty that 3D printing will only get easier, and cheaper. Quality, untraceable guns may very well be printable in people’s living rooms.
No amount of fretting will stop that.
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