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You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer 632

Posted by timothy
from the big-conspiracy-or-small-minds dept.
FatLittleMonkey writes "You may recall Cody Wilson's project to create a 3D printed gun, mentioned previously on Slashdot. Well, the Defense Distributed project has suffered a decidedly non-technical setback, with printer manufacturer Stratasys revoking the lease and repossessing the printer (presumably prying it from plastic models of Cory's cold dead hands). According to New Scientist, the manufacturer cited his lack of a federal firearms manufacturer's license as their reason for the repossession, adding that it does not knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes." Homemade firearms are not (in the U.S.) per se illegal on a federal basis, though states have varying degrees of regulation. It would be helpful if anyone more conversant with firearms law than me can point out what law or laws this project might be breaking.
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You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:25AM (#41525387)

    if you're going to print gray-area items, print them quietly, and announce after your beta is complete.

    • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:43AM (#41525645) Journal

      Very true... But the most important part of this story, missing from the summary, is that this printer was leased, not sold.

    • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:44AM (#41525661)
      If you're going to print something illicit, do it quietly and own the printer you're using.
      • by wfWebber (715881) <[moc.gnimagfw] [ta] [rebbew]> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:07AM (#41526013)
        Exactly. Printers don't kill projects, people do.
      • by BoRegardless (721219) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:11AM (#41526061)

        You can buy all the machine tools and heat treat ovens you need, 2nd hand, and make your own real guns.

        Forget the RP printers...or if you want to play, just have an RP job shop make your parts.

      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:53AM (#41526649)
        I'm guessing this was done because the printer manufacturer is worried about the press that would hurt their buisiness, not because it's "illicit" or anything like that.

        "Coming up on your shitty cable news program, TERRORIST PEDOPHILES can print out NEARLY ANY AUTOMATIC DEATH WEAPON AT HOME! Some experts (on making ridiculous statements) suggest they could print a NUCLEAR BOMB!!! Are YOUR children safe? NO THEY'RE FUCKING NOT BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ANY LAWS AGAINST IT AND PEOPLE ARE ALREADY PRINTING OFF GUNS (sorta)"

        Which, they probably have legitimate reason to be concerned about that. Those stories will pop up, and people will write their congressmen who will suggest we need government regulation over what 3D things you can print off. And there are industries who have interests in people not being able to easily print off their own potentially copyright-infringing items. And it's too much to hope that such people won't be selfish and won't use such FUD to kill 3D printing before it gets off the ground.

        Still, I'd prefer people to deal head on with stupid bullshit FUD when it comes up rather than punishing individual customers who are driving the field forward.
        • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @04:23PM (#41530263) Journal

          I'm guessing this was done because the printer manufacturer is worried about the press that would hurt their buisiness, not because it's "illicit" or anything like that.

          IMHO he's far more likely to be worried about being convicted on conspiracy charges and spending most of the rest of his life in federal PMITA prison if even one person who makes a gun using information from this project breaks even one tiny regulation.

          The federal firearms regulations are intended to ban most weapons manufacturing and transfer except under very controlled conditions. But the federal government didn't have the constitutional authorization to write such laws - so they were written as a tax. Because they're a tax, the courts have carved out this one loophole. But the federal agencies charged with enforcing the de facto ban does everything it can to find a way to prevent the use of this loophole.

          The primary agency in question is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) - recently expanded to "and explosives (BATFE). They are notorious for their "zeal", general incompetence, extreme violence, willingness to bend the rules to make an arrest, and for prosecuting obviously failing cases until the accused is bankrupted and loses by default. They have put literally tens of thousands of people in federal prison for minor paperwork errors or claims that fender washers or pieces of muffler tubing are parts of silencers, or that dummy grenades are being made live. They have raided collectors (often licensed as "dealers" because it's WAY cheaper that way) because their own paperwork was fouled - or for no discernible reason. In one incident they threw a pregnant woman up against a wall (she miscarried shortly after) and deliberately stomped a kitten to death, just to show their power. They set up the situation in Ruby Ridge that ended with a federal sniper shooting a woman holding her baby, and in Waco where a church camp was burned to the ground - in both cases over a dispute about "a $200 tax". They are referred to as "F troop" by other federal law agencies. The "Jackbooted Thugs" ad campaign was the NRA's most effective recruiting aid.

          One of their favorite tricks is to have an agent pose as a curious teenager and ask someone at a gun show how to make a gun shoot full-auto. If he tells them, they arrest him for "conspiracy to violate the federal firearms act". (First amendment? What's that?) You can bet that they'd hang similar charges on the people running a company that leased a machine to a project that is attempting to enable the general population to sidestep the same laws easily and cheaply. It looks like the operator of the company is betting that way, too.

      • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @12:38PM (#41527269)
        It isn't illicit. A manufacture's license is only required if you "sell" your product. The only problem would have been if the gun was illegal in that jurisdiction in the first place. Since Cody is a student of law in Texas. So, since it's Texas there's almost certainly no legal issue here and since he's a law student he'd stand a pretty good chance of knowing one way or another anyway. This has nothing to do with illegality and everything to do with Stratasys being fearful of getting a bad reputation as an enabler of terrorist groups and crazies.
        • by Plekto (1018050) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @01:22PM (#41527883)

          But, while it is not illegal to make a firearm for your own use. But he's got a major problem as the government sees "donations" and "selling" as pretty much the same thing when it comes to this. He's taking money in in some form and offering essentially DIY gun kits. Bad move. He's a moron for not paying the fees and doing the paperwork and then doing what hundreds of other companies small and large are doing legally. Firearms are BIG money in the U.S. He can then go one step further and offer the things as working cheaper alternatives, offer cheaper replacement parts, and so on.

          That's how he makes money at this. Not via donations, but via running a proper business. After all, have you SEEN the price of most firearms lately? A half or quarter-priced alternative would sell like crazy. He'd probably get a major retailer interested as well if the designs were properly safe and functional. As that show Son of Guns says, "If you're properly trained; if you're properly licensed, and you follow all of the laws, you too can do this." It never ceases to amaze me how many people out there make their lives difficult when a few dollars and some forms would have solved everything. Get your paperwork in order and you're golden. Forget about it and you're going to be dealing with people with little or no sense of humor.

          He had a genius idea and should have run it as a business. Now, he's given most of the info away and is stuck without the right permits and even a printer.

          • by dwillden (521345) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @01:47PM (#41528223) Homepage
            Nope, what he was offering are not kits but plans/designs to allow those with the equipment to manufacture firearms. Something that is already legal and quite common in the metal working community. It's not illegal or even questionable to sell or share plans and blue prints. And it's not illegal or even questionable to build your own off of those plans. Plans are just that plans, without the equipment and knowhow said plans are not going to result in a firearm. But even if they do result in a home made firearm, that's still a legal activity. Regardless of how you got the plans, it's the actual firearm that would be in question, not the instructions.

            What is questionable is the grounds on which this company violated a contract with no solid legal basis for doing so. The Feds hadn't said word one about it because until someone transfers (gives or sells) a home made firearm without a manufacturer's license there is no crime being committed in the manufacture, possession or use of said home made firearm. You can make all the guns you want for your own use as long as you retain legal ownership of the firearm. You just cannot legally transfer one without a license or at least a registered serial number (there are methods for obtaining a serial number to enable transfer of the firearm at a later date).
      • by Type44Q (1233630)
        If I announce to that world that I plan to make a firearm from my own shit (nevermind the fact that shit isn't necessarily a viable material), do I need to worry that McDonalds will start refusing me service? :p
      • by dwillden (521345) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @01:37PM (#41528079) Homepage
        Nothing illicit about it. It is 100% legal to make your own firearms. Federal law only comes into play when you wish to transfer the firearm to another individual (sell). At least two states (Utah and Montana) have authorized in-state only firearms that do not need any federal paperwork or serial number if made for and sold only in state.

        i.e. if it does not cross state borders it does not enter interstate commerce and thus the Feds have no authority to regulate, as their authority to regulate was imposed via the commerce clause.

        There is already a good sized community of metal workers who make their own guns, they share plans and designs just as this group planned to do, and then each individual can make his own fully legal firearm. This just moved it to another group of hobbyists.
    • and announce after your beta is complete
       
      ...with a BANG.

      'Good news, everyone!'

  • Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@@@comcast...net> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:25AM (#41525395)

    What's next, refusing to sell printers to people because their for / against gay marriage? This is a tool and he was using it for legal purposes. What the manufacturer did was no different than any other kind of censorship. Deplorable.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shompol (1690084)
      No, this is not "censorship". This is Toyota reclaiming your car because you drove to a bar and they [Toyota] don't have a liquor license.
      • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:35AM (#41525523)

        No, this is not "censorship". This is Toyota reclaiming your car because you drove to a bar and they [Toyota] don't have a liquor license.

        Not even close. More like Toyota voiding the lease and demanding the car back because the lease says "no entering car races" and you publicly state you're entering a car race with your leased Toyota.

        • Re:Politics (Score:5, Informative)

          by Nadaka (224565) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:43AM (#41525641)

          Thing is, federal firearms laws are mostly about the sale of firearms. You can make them for your own use all day long and not break the federal law. But if you plan to sell them, you need to get serial numbers for them. And for that you need to register.

          • Re:Politics (Score:5, Funny)

            by funwithBSD (245349) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @12:08PM (#41526835)

            Reading Slashdotters talk about guns is like listening to a bunch of nerds talk about sex.

            Oh, wait...

            • Yep, it's all the more disturbing when we show you the hand drawn schematics demonstrating we know more about either.
        • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:46AM (#41525673) Homepage Journal

          No, this is not "censorship". This is Toyota reclaiming your car because you drove to a bar and they [Toyota] don't have a liquor license.

          Not even close. More like Toyota voiding the lease and demanding the car back because the lease says "no entering car races" and you publicly state you're entering a car race with your leased Toyota.

          Still not quite right; more like, Toyota repossesses your car because you say you want to enter it in a race, and Toyota is under the impression that a certain type of license you don't posses is legally required for said race, even though there is no such licensing requirement.

          • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

            by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:29AM (#41526317) Journal
            Thing is, when you have to be this specific, the analogy no longer has any purpose, and you might as well describe the situation.
          • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Shrike82 (1471633) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:40AM (#41526463)

            No, this is not "censorship". This is Toyota reclaiming your car because you drove to a bar and they [Toyota] don't have a liquor license.

            Not even close. More like Toyota voiding the lease and demanding the car back because the lease says "no entering car races" and you publicly state you're entering a car race with your leased Toyota.

            Still not quite right; more like, Toyota repossesses your car because you say you want to enter it in a race, and Toyota is under the impression that a certain type of license you don't posses is legally required for said race, even though there is no such licensing requirement.

            We're getting closer. It's more like Toyota repossesses your car because you say you want to enter it in a race known for it's poor safety record for spectators, and Toyota is under the impression that a certain type of license you don't posses is legally required for said race, even though there is no such licensing requirement, but they don't want their brand associated with any negative press if any spectators get mowed down by their car.

      • No, it's Toyota reclaiming your car because you drove to a bar and you *might* not be of drinking age in *some* places. Regardless of whether or not you're of age where you are.

        • No, it's a company saying "He's doing what? Is that legal? (Gets seven different contradictory answers) Oh FFS, can we not be involved with this?" Honestly, I can't blame the company here. Lawsuits happen every time someone sneezes in the USA. Maybe when the gunsmoke clears something can be worked out.

    • Printing Money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:37AM (#41525559)
      If you are leasing a color copier or press. They will pull the copier if your using it to print counterfet money. This is not censorship at all.
      • Re:Printing Money (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:44AM (#41525651) Homepage Journal

        If you are leasing a color copier or press. They will pull the copier if your using it to print counterfet money. This is not censorship at all.

        Slight problem with your analogy: Counterfeiting money is illegal, whereas manufacturing firearms for personal use (i.e. not for sale) is not.

    • Re:Politics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:45AM (#41525665)

      I have seen a relatively stupid argument with people who support extreme gun control. If we stopped selling guns, then we won't have guns, it is not like they can make their own guns.

      I pointed out how a lot of crimes are committed from hand made guns, and they can make a deadly gun with normal parts in their workshed. And by Banning legal guns, people who want to perform other crimes will still have guns.

    • In a related story, General [general.ca] is in the process of cancelling leases to all of its customer until they get firearms licences.

  • Printing Presses (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm.... reminiscent of the desire to suppress printing presses in order to inhibit revolutionary movements.

  • He broke no law AFAIK. He created a portion of the gun that is regulated in commercial export/sale, not manufacture. He didn't even create the full gun with the printer, and his "gun" likely wasn't reliable enough to be considered dangerous to someone it's aiming at.
    • Re:Overreaction. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:34AM (#41525509)

      Wired seemed to have a better write-up of potential legal angles:
      http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/10/3d-gun-blocked/ [wired.com]

      Regardless of legal angles, though, Stratasys made it clear that this is not what they want their machines used for, and that is that. If he bought it, it might be different - but he was basically just renting it. I'm sure he can get a different 3D printer to work with.

      • by BMOC (2478408)
        Wired mentions that it is illegal to manufacture sawed-off shotguns or machine guns. An automatic rifle is not a machine gun according the the law, afaik. They are a separate class of weapon. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
        • Re:Overreaction. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Type44Q (1233630) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:04AM (#41525951)

          An automatic rifle is not a machine gun according the the law, afaik. They are a separate class of weapon.

          I believe that an "automatic rifle" means an auto-loading rifle which is the technical term for a "semi-automatic" weapon - i.e. the vast majority of rifles legally sold for civilian use in the modern area.

          A "machine gun" is a fully automatic weapon and those are illegal for private individuals to own, period, unless they're made before 1986 and you've paid for a Federal "tax stamp," which I believe is $200 (I imagine they're still illegal for private citizens to own in certain jurisdictions; obviously, Kalifornia comes to mind). Corporations as well as certain manufacturers and dealers, however, can own fully automatic weapons made after 1986 but obviously certain rules apply.

          The technical term for a "sawed-off" shotgun is an SBS (short-barreled shotgun) which is a smoothbore longarm with a barrel less than 18" in length (or, I believe, a total length - including the stock - of less than 26"). These also require a $200 "tax stamp" to the Feds.

          Here's some additional useful info, from here [comcast.net]:

          "Sporting" Purposes

          Here's where things get a little tricky. Some rifles, such as the Saiga line, are imported for sporting purposes in a particular configuration. Generally, that means that do not incorporate any of the "evil" features that are typically associated with so-called "semi-automatic assault weapons". Chapter 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations Section 478.11 defines these SAWs. You can read the law, here. Specific examples of these features include:

          - High capacity (greater than 10 round for rifles, 5 rounds for shotgun) magazines
          - Pistol grip attachment
          - Folding buttstock
          - Muzzle device/attachment (to include a threaded barrel capable of receiving a device)
          - Bayonet lugs

          If your rifle or shotgun incorporates those features, it no longer is considered "suitable for sporting purposes".

          Assembling Semiauto Rifles and Shotguns

          If your rifle or shotgun is subject to 922R, you must now make sure that it is in compliance with the regulations governing the assembly of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. That is covered in Title 27 Chapter 1 Section 178.39. Click here to see the text of the law. It states :

          (a) No person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.

          Paragraph (C) defines the following parts as "countable" under the law:

          (1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings or stampings *
          (2) Barrels *
          (3) Barrel extensions
          (4) Mounting blocks (trunions) *
          (5) Muzzle attachments *
          (6) Bolts *
          (7) Bolt carriers *
          (8) Operating rods
          (9) Gas pistons *
          (10) Trigger housings
          (11) Triggers *
          (12) Hammers *
          (13) Sears
          (14) Disconnectors *
          (15) Buttstocks *
          (16) Pistol grips *
          (17) Forearms, handguards *
          (18) Magazine bodies *
          (19) Followers *
          (20) Floorplates *

          These 20 items are referred to with the term "compliance parts". There are lots of other components that go into a weapon, but there are the only ones that count in terms of complying with the law.

  • You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer, How Can You Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer. You, Yes You Behind The Bike Shed, Stand Still Laddie!

    • You Can't Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer, How Can You Print a Gun If You Have No 3D Printer. You, Yes You Behind The Bike Shed, Stand Still Laddie!

      Did you exchange a walk on part in the war, for the lead role in a (3D printed) cage?

    • can I still have some pudding even though I didn't eat my meat?

  • Machine tools (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:31AM (#41525473)

    How is a 3D printer any different than a lathe, grinder or a milling machine?

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:46AM (#41525677)

      lathes, grinders and millers all are subtractive processes.

      the 3d printer is additi-

      oh wait, you didn't meant it that way, did you?

    • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich.aol@com> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:47AM (#41525691) Journal

      If you make a gun with a lathe, grinder, and milling machine, the gun will actually work.

    • by vlm (69642)

      How is a 3D printer any different than a lathe, grinder or a milling machine?

      Its not. Its standard lease terms that

      1) We are not taking the fall in a conspiracy rap so officially we will not rent for illegal purposes. Often there's something along the lines of if we figure out you're a crook we reserve the right to violate privacy and turn you to the authorities in addition to cancelling the lease contract.

      2) We have no desire to see our rentable machine rot in a federal evidence vault, unrented, for a decade or so as evidence while your trial grinds on, so doing something illegal

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:32AM (#41525479)

    If you read between the lines of Stratasys' statement, the company's president clearly says:

    "For the love of god please don't give us this kind of press. If we don't shut this down now I'm going to have Homeland Security on, over and in my ass. Don't ever use gun and printed in the same sentence again. My hands are too delicate for jail. Why are you doing this to me?"

    • Good God, a statement from a CEO unclouded by lawyer speak!

      Kudos to that guy for cutting through the crap!

    • He'd like to continue selling the machines without Mountians of paperwork.

      I can see the laws being drafted right now... To turn these into big "Cricut" machines, that are DRM'D to heck and only print LICENSED models from cartridges...

      Seriously, who's bright idea was this to plaster 3d printed gun parts all over the geek news???

  • It's against federal law to make a machine gun. In Tennessee, as long as he doesn't break any federal laws, he can do whatever he wants without the federal license, but he cannot he doesn't sell what he produces. If he keeps it personally, he isn't even required to put a serial number on the receiver. If he wants to sell it at a later time, however, he's required put a serial on it, and he also may invoke the wrath of the ATF. It's said that you can sell a reasonable number of homemade firearms per year w
  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:35AM (#41525535) Journal

    The first thing you should print when you get a 3d printer, is another 3d printer.

    • if wishes brought 3d printers, could you then use that 3d printer to create more wishes??

    • by gr8_phk (621180)
      Except there is so much of a 3d printer that it can't print. A CNC can make circuit boards, motor parts, frame pieces and some others.
  • Did he get it to print another printer ? :-)

    Pity printers are not quite up to that yet but, when they are, I wonder what devastation it would cause to manufacturing industries ? What if you could print yourself a new toilet, kitchen appliance, ... would people buy them from shops ? It depends on the costs of printing to the costs of buying a made item from the shop. Some items are never going to be printable, eg: CPUs and items requiring high strength (famous last words).

  • by vmxeo (173325) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:39AM (#41525607) Homepage Journal

    When all 3d printers are outlawed, only outlaws won't care because they will still have ready access to guns through illicit channels

    ...or something to that effect

  • But I could get a 3D printer if I had a gun. What a farking quandary!
  • the ammo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amoeba1911 (978485) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:05AM (#41525975) Homepage

    I never understood the hoopla about the whole gun thing... the ammo is the part that does the actual launching of the bullet, the gun is just to hold the ammo+bullet together while they're being fired.

    It's kinda like putting serial numbers on hypodermic needles and making heroin legal enough to sell at Walmart.

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:29AM (#41526307) Homepage Journal
    The Second Amendment to the US Constitution clearly specifies that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." It is clearly an "infringement" on the right of the people to keep and bear Arms for there to be Federal limits on the right to manufacture Arms. Since unconstitutional legislation is not law, there is no law against manufacture of Arms. The real question is: What to do about an outlaw government?
    • The Second Amendment to the US Constitution clearly specifies that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." It is clearly an "infringement" on the right of the people to keep and bear Arms for there to be Federal limits on the right to manufacture Arms.

      The second amendment you quoted states that it is illegal for the government to prevent people from keeping and bearing arms. Nowhere does it state th

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