3D printing may spell the beginning of the end for gun control

The lower receiver of the gun pictured at the top of this article was not purchased from a licensed dealer, nor was it purchased from an individual.

This lower was ‘printed’ using a 3D printer and it may spell the beginning of the end for the gun control movement.

3D ‘printing’ is an emerging technology that has been commercially available for some time but is only now achieving inroads into the consumer market.  3D ‘printers’ are in fact computer controlled material handling systems that lay down successive layers of polymer or other material based upon a computer model to make a 3D object; in this case, a lower for an AR.

Once costing tens of thousands of dollars, advanced 3D printers such as the MakerBot Replicator are available today for under $2,000 and the price is expected to keep dropping as consumer demand increases.

And thanks to engineer Michael Guslick, who ‘printed’ the lower pictured above from a design of his own creation, 3D printing of functional firearms has moved beyond the realm of the possible into the actual; and things will never be the same again.

Michael first posted details of his creation on AR15.com but the story quickly spread across the internet where numerous commentators, myself included, have discussed the legal and public policy ramifications of this inevitable step forward.

One of the comments on the AR15.com thread summed up my feelings quite nicely; ‘‘If we can spread this core technology to every kitchen tabletop, there will no longer be a meaningful way to restrict and infringe on the private civilian ownership of modern firearms.’’

Even Mark Gibbs of Forbes magazine couldn’t help himself from noting that, from this day forward ‘‘if guns are outlawed, outlaws will have 3D printers.’’

About John Pierce

Monachus Lex is written by Virginia attorney John Pierce. John is a life-long gun rights advocate, an NRA certified instructor and co-founder of the nationwide gun rights group OpenCarry.org.

He has an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems, an MBA from George Mason University and is a 2012 Honors Graduate of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, MN.

Professionally, John is a member of the American Bar Association Second Amendment Civil Rights Litigation Subcommittee and his writings have been published by the ABA Civil Rights Litigation Committee and the ABA Minority Trial Lawyer Committee.

In addition, his open carry advocacy has been featured on Nightline and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
This entry was posted in 3D Printing, Gun Control, Manufacturing Firearms, Media Views on The Second Amendment. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to 3D printing may spell the beginning of the end for gun control

  1. Jeff Knox says:

    I have long expected ATF to move toward defining “uppers” as firearms, and this development will undoubtedly expedite that shift. The chamber and barrel being the parts that must be the most durable, they are now the most difficult to fabricate and therefore the most likely parts to be targeted for control. I don’t know when the shift will occur or whether it will be an administrative decision or one made by Congress, but I see an attempt at it as inevitable.

  2. Grapeshot says:

    Not subject to interstate commerce if I build it out of parts – in the case of the AR15, the receiver – that I construct at home – right?

    • Hoplophile says:

      I suppose if you can find a local source that manufactures a 3D printer, the material the printer uses to create objects, the computer you use to program the printer, the software installed on the computer, all of the components necessary to build the printer and computer and your electric company (and their fuel supplier) are all located in the same state as you are then you might be able to skirt the current ridiculous interpretation of the interstate commerce clause.

      I’m sure there are still many other aspects that I haven’t listed that they can use as an excuse to regulate this.

  3. jacob lutz says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but as long as the weapons produced aren’t atf restricted.(barrel too short, silenced, machine gun, etc) can’t anyone own and carry them as normal guns as long as they never sell/transfer them to anyone else? No serial number or tax stamp needed? That was my understanding of homemade firearms.

    • John Pierce says:


      I think you are right but I am not sure of the intricacies of law surrounding homemade firearms. I may do the research and write a future article about it.


      • DavidT says:

        You can even sell them, as long as you are not making them to sell, serial number still not required. An example would be if you were to make a lower as a project. You complete the firearm, fire it a few times and decide you don’t like ARs. You are then free to sell it just like any other, factory made firearms. However, if you decide to make some for your friends, that would be frowned upon by the BATFE, exact number to be determined by them.

  4. Alphabet Soup says:

    I think that the concept of “Shareware” just exploded exponentially 😉

  5. R.L.Klaus says:

    This just makes things much easier for more people. Even without a 3-D printer, any well equipped automotive machine shop could make a shotgun in an hour, a revolver might take a day, and givin a couple days could reproduce a Colt 1911.
    In Pakistan black smiths build AK-47s using little more than hundred year old technology.
    They will continue to debate this for years, but true gun control is pretty much a dead issue.

    • Ken says:

      This. Gun control can only be achieved with the consent of those affected by it.

      • Grapeshot says:

        Nice tidy thought, but applicable only to the state or country as a unit. Not so much to the individual who is exposed (literally) to tens of thousands of laws to which they did not consent. We are involved in collective bargaining.

  6. Grapeshot says:

    Gun control is alive if not thriving when you seek to ship the product across state lines.

  7. Brokengun says:

    I would like to add…
    This is my understanding of the law concerning home builds; some states/jurisdictions have requirements for licensing and identification.

    While it is not required by federal law for a home build to have serial number, a lot of home builders put their name or a number on the home build has an identifier in case they run into a LEO that doesn’t know the law on home builds.

    If you do put a number on your home build you need to follow the ATF regs for number size and depth

  8. Law2001 says:

    The concern is the gun control nuts in the government could institute a draconian police state against DIY home made guns, sequential armed searches without warrants. God forbid!

    Consider how the Obama administration used armed force to take the $ 1M worth of wood from Gibson Guitar and never pressed any charges against them. The government violated the law.

    I seem to recall something about a proposed UN treaty that also controlled all means of manufacturing guns. That could lead to an unjust police state, God forbid!

  9. Scout says:

    It is only a matter of time until this technology is applied to metals.
    Once that occurs anyone with such a printer could print out almost any gun part.
    A bolt, a reciever, possibly even a finished barrel.
    Indeed how much in a gun really has to be metal?
    Particularly when you consider that if something wears out, you just ‘print’ up a replacement part?

  10. tmuir says:

    I’m all for anything that makes the ATF’s job harder or make there existence pointless. Look forward owning 3D printers becoming unofficially outlawed under RICO statues. Sure the printer, a laptop, varrious AR parts and ammunition are legal, but then again so is short cut pipes, fender washers, and household cleaners. The ATF seems to hand out prison sentences of stupider.

  11. Rocketman says:

    Most anti-gun nuts are never satisfied and 3-D printing guns will be no different. They will 1) Outlaw any piece of any firearm made by 3-D printing. 2)Put extensive licensing on any 3-D printer similar to what you have to go through when you acquire a legal automatic weapon meaning only “their kind of people” will have the technology and 3)Change the way that the 3-D printers work so that if a “illegal” firearm is found it will be able to be traced back to the printer that made it and the owner of the printer will be in a whole lot of trouble. They are fanatics and new technology let alone common sense is not going to stop them.

    • Grapeshot says:

      Within an article about 3 VSU college students starting a 3D printing business is the following gem:

      Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said the creation of guns through 3-D printing could make undetectable plastic firearms too easy to acquire. He called for the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which would include bans on plastic guns and firearms made from 3-D-printed parts.

      “It is just a matter of time before these three-dimensional printers will be able to replicate an entire gun,” Israel said. “And that firearm will be able to be brought through this security line, through the metal detector, and because there will be no metal to be detected, firearms will be brought on planes without anyone’s knowledge.”

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  13. Maine Carry says:

    It would be really neat if the price of ammo parts would go down,or the fact that you could keep making them your self would be fantastic.The Businesses and the Gov don’t like people DIY-ing or building anything at home.

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