When the first handgun made entirely with a 3-D printer, named the “Liberator,” emerged a couple of months ago, everyone was up in arms about it (sorry for the easy pun).
The obvious security implications were lessened somewhat when you looked closer at the actual process. While the other parts of the gun could be constructed from plastic assembled by nearly any 3-D printer, the plastic barrel needed to go through some rather unusual and pretty costly steps in order to make it strong enough to stay in one piece under fire. And even then, the designer wasn’t able to make one that survived more than a few shots.
Now someone is working on making a 3-D-printed rifle, and has gotten about as far as the Liberator’s maker had when it was first reported. According to an article in The Register, it is capable of firing a single shot before the barrel is rendered useless. Although the designer, who goes by the Internet handle CanadianGunNut, managed to print the barrel with more typical methods, the fact that it split after a single firing makes it a failure in his book. The YouTube video he released of the shot doesn’t show clearly how big the split was, but if the maker called it a failure, then it must have been significant.
The rifle in question may actually be already considered illegal in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Ars Technica.
“In Canada, it is illegal to manufacture or possess a firearm without appropriate licenses and applicable registrations,” warned RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Julie Gagnon in a statement sent to Ars. “Firearms licensing is an important mechanism for ensuring rigorous screening of potential gun owners. The Firearms Act stipulates that individuals in possession of firearms must have a Possession Only License or Possession and Acquisition License. The RCMP does not confirm or deny who might be or not be the subject of an investigation.”
It will be a while yet before just anyone can take a digital file and print up a working firearm out of their home 3-D printer. But, as I brought up recently, next year 3-D printers are likely to become cheaper and more plentiful. So, like Canada, lawmakers should examine their gun laws in preparation for its eventuality.