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Printable guns "plausible" with new 3D printing techonology

7:33 AM, Oct 24, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- New technology, combined with fierce Second Amendment supporters, could make firearms easily accessible to anyone, regardless of whether he or she has a license.

Defense Distributed, a group of gun advocates, recently posted a YouTube video trying to raise money to make a printable gun.  The concept is to use fast-improving 3D printer technology to create gun parts that could be assembled into a fully-workable firearm.

"As the printing press revolutionized literacy, 3D printing is in its moment," Cody Wilson, 24, founder of Defense Distributed, said in the video clip.

Three-dimensional printers have been used industrially for years to produce plastic or metal objects, but as the prices for entry level machines have fallen as low as $500, the printers have become more prevalent among hobbyists and educational institutions.

Users can create or download a data file, then simply click "Print" and the machines will create the three-dimensional prototype.

Wilson hopes he can develop a distributable data file for a workable gun. It could put firearms in the hands of kids or felons who aren't allowed to have licenses.

"That's not my concern, that's my goal," Wilson told 10 News via Skype. "I don't believe in illegal regimes that tell you you must register or get a license to have arms."

Wilson has tweeted comments like, "Don't print a gun unless you plan on using it" as well as, "Gun control is quickly an impossibility. Values and morality are the solution."

While it's illegal to traffic firearms or carry one without a license, it's neither illegal to fashion your own firearm nor transmit a data file to create one.

And Wilson makes no apologies for any tragedies that may develop from the new technology, saying kids with access to the Internet already have access to weapons. "Anyone right now can take $10 and go to Home Depot and build themselves a very powerful gun," he said.

While he hasn't been arrested or charged with any crimes, Wilson has been investigated by federal agencies and recently had his 3D printer removed by the company he leased it from.

Experts at USF's College of Engineering say Wilson's dream is plausible, but not practical at this time. "It's not going to be an actual gun...because of the materials," said Susana Lai Yuen, associate professor of Industrial Engineering and the director of the Virtual MD Lab at USF.

Yuen has helped make items like surgical implants, a working wrench, and a toy catapult in USF's expensive 3D printers, but said a working gun would require heavy-duty metals.

Three-dimensional printers that can create metal prototypes don't cost $500; they cost upwards of $500,000. 

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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