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No longer sci-fi: world's first 3D printed (almost) all-plastic firearm.
May 7, 2013 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Defense Distributed, creators of the controversial printable AR-15 receiver, have now released CAD files and video of the first firing of the Liberator, a real plastic pistol capable of firing between one and 10 .380 calibre rounds before exploding.

Andy Greenberg of Forbes was apparently invited to witness the historic moment. The device is named after the FP-45 Liberator experiment of World War II. Interestingly, to comply with the Undetectable Weapons Act, the creators inserted a non-functional steel cube into the frame because the only metal part, a hardware store nail used as a firing pin, wasn't enough to set off the average metal detector.
posted by MoTLD (257 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let me know when they can use a 3D printer to make gunpowder. Until then, at best, this just shifts the gun control issue to ammunition control, which has the added benefit of focusing on a consumable that tends to go bad over time.
posted by jedicus at 6:17 PM on May 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have a bad feeling about this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:17 PM on May 7, 2013


Sorry, it's actually called the Undetectable Firearms Act. Oops.
posted by MoTLD at 6:18 PM on May 7, 2013


jedicus, that's kinda the inevitable endgame of this home printing stuff, I think. Eventually, probably sooner than we think, we'll have something akin to Star Trek replicators which can take a few basic chemical building blocks and a recipe and print literally anything.
posted by MoTLD at 6:22 PM on May 7, 2013


The city of DC is already trying to ban printed weapons.

The printed gun seems limited, for now, to certain calibers of ammunition. After the handgun round, Wilson switched out the Liberator’s barrel for a higher-charge 5.7×28 rifle cartridge. He and John retreated to a safe distance, and John pulled his yellow string again. This time the gun exploded, sending shards of white ABS plastic flying into the weeds and bringing the Liberator’s first field trial to an abrupt end.

I don't think anything that has a significant chance to explode when you use it will be popular, but then again with the MO of some people that probably doesn't really matter.

But at each roadblock, the group has found a detour. It’s raised funds from donors through the digital payment system Bitcoin, which thanks to that crypto-currency’s rising value now accounts for 99% of Defense Distributed’s assets

Why is every person involved with Bitcoin a nauseating libertarian creep?

And it’s complied with the Undetectable Firearms Act by inserting a six ounce cube of non-functional steel into the body of the Liberator, which makes it detectable with a metal detector–Wilson spent $400 on a walk-through model that he’s installed at the workshop’s door for testing. “Our strategy is overcompliance,” he says.

And there it is, the typical naive gloss to make their actions palatable, so that they can hand-wave the negative externalities of their single minded pursuit for a really fucked-up idea of 'liberty'.

But Wilson denies advocating any sort of violent revolt in America. Instead, he argues that his goal is to demonstrate how technology can circumvent laws until governments simply become irrelevant.

I mean, good god, what a total piece of shit this man is.

“I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people. That’s what it is: It’s a gun,” he says. “But I don’t think that’s a reason to not put it out there. I think that liberty in the end is a better interest.”

Strangely, they never imagine what their childlike fantasy of 'liberty' means for the other people who are forced to live with them in society.
posted by codacorolla at 6:27 PM on May 7, 2013 [28 favorites]


"capable of firing between one and 10 .380 caliber rounds"

Like Russian Roulette with your hand. Cool! Comes with instructions, "use remaining hand to staunch the bleeding."
posted by SPrintF at 6:29 PM on May 7, 2013 [21 favorites]


Time to reread A for Anything.

Open source nature of some 3d printers (not the one used in this demo) notwithstanding, I can expect that various governments will want to have code running on 3d printers and 3d software similar to this.
posted by el io at 6:29 PM on May 7, 2013


Let me know when they can use a 3D printer to make gunpowder.

You don't need one. Gunpowder is easier to make than meth.

Batshit, charcoal, sulfer and piss.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've said this before, but if I were smarter (and rich, I suppose), I'd put all my time and energy into defensive technology that makes guns obsolete.
posted by drezdn at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2013


Cody Wilson is interesting to listen to ... for about 2 minutes. Some things he has to say have merit, but he is pretty afar into cuckoo territory and everything quickly devolves into half-baked ideas.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2013


capable of firing between one and 10 .380 calibre rounds before exploding.

Everybody loves a surprise!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:31 PM on May 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


I look forward to the future alliance between the NRA and 3D printed figurine enthusiasts.
posted by Damienmce at 6:32 PM on May 7, 2013


...take a few basic chemical building blocks and a recipe and print literally anything.

If the only building blocks you have are sulfur, carbon, nitrate, iron, brass, lead, phosphorus (how do you make the igniter?), plastic for the handle, and some kind of lubricant, everything you want to print looks like a handgun.
posted by sneebler at 6:32 PM on May 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


How is the US government going to ban a bunch of cad files?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:35 PM on May 7, 2013


I don't think anything that has a significant chance to explode when you use it will be popular, but then again with the MO of some people that probably doesn't really matter.

This is only the first generation of the design. Further, 3D printing tech is in its infancy. Eventually, they'll be able to print in higher density materials, or materials with higher tensile strengths.

The fact that it can fire now (even if it's only one shot) is still pretty terrifying. Sometimes, you only need one shot.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:35 PM on May 7, 2013


Gunpowder is not easier to make than meth. Can you make something explosive in your kitchen? Yes. Can you make the kind of high tolerance explosive that makes a modern firearm operate correctly? No.

"Easier to make than meth" raises the point that meth users don't care much about quality control. An AR-15, however, relies on it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:36 PM on May 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


And furthermore: Chart of metal depletion timelines.
posted by sneebler at 6:37 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm 100% for gun control, but I think this is interesting, and to an extent unavoidable. If this guy doesn't do it, someone else will. If it's not 3D printers printing in ABS today, it's, fuck, I don't know, small desktop CNC mill things cutting pieces out of metal in a couple of years.

Making firearms is not like counterfeiting currency, where improvements in technology were (largely) countered by anti-counterfeiting measures in the real thing. If a gun works, it works. If it fires only one shot, it's still a gun, and as this proves, that might not take all that much.

The interesting and important question now is, what does this mean, and what can and will we do about it?

On one hand, I think the whole "enable the people to rise up against their government" thing is silly and unrealistic... today. On the other hand, in 20 years, when 3D printers are common everywhere and some country somewhere takes a turn for the worse, this kind of tech might actually mean something in that context, and that'll certainly be interesting. How available are 3D printers in countries like China, which has a fairly oppressive government? Or Japan, which has very strict gun control, but is a fully functioning democracy?

As to what we do about it, I don't know if there's much we can do. We could certainly ban guns with no serial numbers that are manufactured without a license, but that doesn't put the toothpaste back in the tube.

On the other hand, there are a bunch of other weapons that are already widely available with no controls at all, like knives. Guns are better at killing many people quickly and efficiently than knives are, but this particular gun seems to be at the low end of gun capacity for that. But that might just be a matter of time.

No matter whether you think this is a good or bad thing, it certainly feels like living in the cyberpunk future, at least.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:38 PM on May 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. This is some crazy libertarian stupidity.
posted by arcticseal at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Finally we can cure all the mutants.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:40 PM on May 7, 2013


Just because you can do something means eventually somebody will.
posted by MoTLD at 6:40 PM on May 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


Is it really that much more difficult to construct a one-shot pistol using regular old methods compared to acquiring and learning how to use a 3D printer to make one? I'm skeptical that this really changes anything.
posted by XMLicious at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


drezdn: "I've said this before, but if I were smarter (and rich, I suppose), I'd put all my time and energy into defensive technology that makes guns obsolete"

Defeating small pieces of metal at very high speeds is surprisingly difficult. We know how to do it for handgun projectiles and certain rifle rounds, but it gets exponentially more difficult the bigger and faster the bullet gets, and even our solutions for small-caliber handgun projectiles are not something you want to wear all the time, especially if you want it to protect your head/face, groin area, etc.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:41 PM on May 7, 2013


XMLicious: "Is it really that difficult to construct a one-shot pistol using regular old methods compared to acquiring and learning how to use a 3D printer to make one? I'm skeptical that this really changes anything"

Well, this is plastic, which makes it hard to detect, but apart from that and the fact that it takes no technical skill to make one, this specific gun is not a very big deal. But it's easy to see where this might lead.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:42 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


More to the point, what about the worthwhile uses. If the army can make weapons on base they don't have to move guns around the place and all the security that entails, repair them etc They could even destroy them after a conflict. Gun manufacturers become designers.
posted by Damienmce at 6:43 PM on May 7, 2013


You don't need one. Gunpowder is easier to make than meth.

As the Mythbusters have demonstrated, it's trivial to make something that burns and smokes. But it's quite difficult to reliably make something even remotely as powerful as modern commercial gunpowder formulations.

And of course modern cartridges don't use gunpowder at all but rather smokeless powders, which are quite a bit more complicated.
posted by jedicus at 6:45 PM on May 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


A banner day for men who insist they need to shoot their ex-girlfriend right now!

Yeah - Libertarians love to talk about unintended consequences. Well, this little stunt will have the unintended consequence of ammunition control. The days of cheap and abundant rounds are over. Say sayanora to range days for anyone but the rich.

Yes, you can make gunpowder at home. It requires a good deal of skill, patience and trial-and-error to make black powder that's guaranteed to touch off every time. It's easier just to scrape it out of some fireworks. Then process that into something that will burn consistently, and pack it into cartridges. Any way you want to go with it, making ammo is a messy, dangerous and time consuming task that requires more know-how than loading a cad file onto a printer... and it won't be as safe, powerful or reliable as smokeless powder, which you ain't making at home unless you're Walter White

It's a good way to cool off the hot-heads itching to shoot people as soon as possible.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:46 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real endgame is that Congress will introduce the Safe Replicator Act, outlawing the posession, sale, and use of replicators that can be used to produce certain prohibited items. But the act will be easily circumvented: Just tell a perfectly legal replicator to replicate a device capable of illegally circumventing the Safe Replicator Act. Predictably, this will result in the Anti-Safe-Replica-Circumvention Act, outlawing replicators that can replicate circumventing replicators.

However, the the Anti-Safe-Replica-Circumvention Act can itself be circumvented by replicating an Anti-Safe-Replica-Circumvention-Act circumventing replicator. This will give rise to the Anti-Anti-Safe-Replica-Circumvention-Act-Circumventing Replicator Act -- which, thanks to a now-obvious loophole, is itself circumvented by the creation of a replicator cunningly designed to circumvent the restrictions against replicators capable of replicating other replicators that that replicate Safe-Replica-Act circumventing replicators.

And so Congress will have to introduce the Anti-Anti-Anti-Safe-Replica-Circumvention-Act-Circumventing-Replicator-Act-Circumventing Replicator and Child Protection Act, which finally solves all of our problems, forever and ever.
posted by compartment at 6:47 PM on May 7, 2013 [25 favorites]


"Easier to make than meth" raises the point that meth users don't care much about quality control. An AR-15, however, relies on it.

Well, I retract the easier part. You don't have to make it as the Boston bombers already proved. Also, you can buy gunpowder off the shelf.

But yeah, fearing one of these guns is silly. The actually guns are scarier.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:50 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is every person involved with Bitcoin a nauseating libertarian creep?
for some reason, the only people i really see getting all sweaty and indignant about this kind of thing are middle-to-upper-middle-class people with a reasonable amount of social capital who live in larger metropolitan areas

sometimes i wonder what they think they have to lose that other people don't

then i ask them for proof that the koch brothers are financing the things they're calling 'libertarian', and that makes them really mad :(
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:51 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oooh, from the guy who made "The plastic box that holds bullets" and "The plastic box that holds the real gun parts" comes "The plastic box that can maybe fire an obsolete low power handgun cartridge a few times".
posted by Grimgrin at 6:52 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


And so Congress will have to introduce the Anti-Anti-Anti-Safe-Replica-Circumvention-Act-Circumventing-Replicator-Act-Circumventing Replicator and Child Protection Act, which finally solves all of our problems, forever and ever.

You could probably write a program to generate these bills. Cut out the middleman.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:53 PM on May 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oooh, from the guy who made "The plastic box that holds bullets" and "The plastic box that holds the real gun parts" comes "The plastic box that can maybe fire an obsolete low power handgun cartridge a few times".

In other words, from the guy who is systematically moving toward more ambitious goals. This won't be his last gun.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:55 PM on May 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


XMLicious: "Is it really that much more difficult to construct a one-shot pistol using regular old methods compared to acquiring and learning how to use a 3D printer to make one? I'm skeptical that this really changes anything."

I agree, and I think that people decrying this as libertarians handing murder weapons to abusive husbands are being short sighted and really, really need to think a lot about all the violence that happens (a) without weapons and (b) with perfectly legal weapons. I'm much more worried about police who have guns than anyone who has a plastic, home-printed gun. I'm much more worried about being attacked by someone with muscles than by someone who has a gun.

I'm liberal through and through, and that makes me anti-violence and therefore i suppose anti-gun. But I think that right now, statistically speaking, the government has a monopoly on violence to such an extreme that it will be a long time before home-printers can catch up.

Seriously, the rhetoric in this thread reminds me completely of hearing parents at my church clutch their pearls over The Anarchist Cookbook. Yes, bombs can be made by anybody. Yes, it sucks when some crazy person blows up a courthouse. Yes, the government does that (I am guessing) on a monthly basis in other countries. Who is the real danger here?
posted by rebent at 6:55 PM on May 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


MoTLD: "The device is named after the FP-45 Liberator experiment of World War II. "

Huh:
The Liberator was never issued to American or Allied troops and there is no documented instance of the weapon being used for their intended purpose. Many FP-45 pistols were never distributed and were destroyed by Allied forces after the war; and most of those distributed were lost or disposed of without any combat use.
So maybe a little more self aware than he's been given credit for.
posted by boo_radley at 6:58 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, this is plastic, which makes it hard to detect

But is even making a one-shot plastic pistol that difficult? I don't know anything about firearms but the components look like it's designed to mimic one that would be made out of metal, so that it's got plastic spiral springs for example. I would think that you could have a variety of other designs, though, including ones that don't operate using a trigger like those plunger things the assassins were shown with in Munich. Or just get plastic springs of superior manufacture out of toys or appliances, for example. (Or maybe even use metal springs, if the nail used as the firing pin in this thing doesn't set off metal detectors.)
posted by XMLicious at 6:59 PM on May 7, 2013


...libertarians handing murder weapons to abusive husbands...

Funny... a libertarian ex-coworker of mine just posted a link to Facebook about a proposed program to give New York citizens in high crime areas a $200 shotgun and training.

This is the same person that can argue that programs to help feed or educate poor people are a drain on the economy because they have to tax rich people to do it.
posted by Foosnark at 6:59 PM on May 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wikipedia: improvised firearm
posted by XMLicious at 7:03 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oooh, from the guy who made "The plastic box that holds bullets" and "The plastic box that holds the real gun parts" comes "The plastic box that can maybe fire an obsolete low power handgun cartridge a few times".

In other words, from the guy who is systematically moving toward more ambitious goals. This won't be his last gun.


Also, for countries with actual gun control, this fuckwit will make it easier for guns to get out in the open. CAD files don't exactly respect national boundaries.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:03 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, for countries with actual gun control, this fuckwit will make it easier for guns to get out in the open. CAD files don't exactly respect national boundaries.

Replace "actual gun control" with "oppressive totalitarian regimes" and the sentiment has a different flavor...
posted by MoTLD at 7:05 PM on May 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


then i ask them for proof that the koch brothers are financing the things they're calling 'libertarian', and that makes them really mad :(

This is incoherent. What exactly are you trying to say?
posted by codacorolla at 7:06 PM on May 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's not so easy to 3D print a gun.

Seeing how it's still cheaper and faster to buy a regular ol' gun, I think we have time to regulate and control this crap before the Libertarian Maker Utopia comes to fruition. But we'd better get on the stick.
posted by RakDaddy at 7:06 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Welcome to the future, where every day a new pandora's box gets opened.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:07 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Before I'm spitted and roasted, let me clarify: I do not equate the two terms.
posted by MoTLD at 7:08 PM on May 7, 2013


Before I'm spitted and roasted, let me clarify: I do not equate the two terms.

Great, there goes my scathing retort.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:10 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your retort is scathing hot when you make gunpowder, you're gonna have a real bad time.
posted by boo_radley at 7:13 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let me know when they can use a 3D printer to make gunpowder. Until then, at best, this just shifts the gun control issue to ammunition control, which has the added benefit of focusing on a consumable that tends to go bad over time.
If you can't get gunpowder you could use CO2 or compressed air, if you can't get sulfur.
Open source nature of some 3d printers (not the one used in this demo) notwithstanding, I can expect that various governments will want to have code running on 3d printers and 3d software similar to this.
Except that you can easily build a 3D printer from 3D printed parts and a few bits of metal from the hardware store, so it wouldn't be very easy to some kind of DRM. And beyond that, all you'd need to do is modify the cad files a little bit to let the printer print them.
I don't know, small desktop CNC mill things cutting pieces out of metal in a couple of years.
In a couple of years? It's probably possible to build machine a gun from metal pretty easily today. In fact, this focus on additive plastic guns is kind of strange, when you can do almost as much (certainly build a gun) out of metal pieces. The only difference is that you have to finally assemble the gun, while the thing comes out fully printed and ready to use.
A banner day for men who insist they need to shoot their ex-girlfriend right now!

Yeah - Libertarians love to talk about unintended consequences. Well, this little stunt will have the unintended consequence of ammunition control. The days of cheap and abundant rounds are over. Say sayanora to range days for anyone but the rich.
Yes, because obviously gun control advocates just have so much political power. Guns already kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, do you really think some hypothetical device that's so far killed no one is actually going to result in changes to the law? If the status quo is anything to go on, nothing would happen to ammunition availability even if thousands of people were killed with printed plastic guns each year.
posted by delmoi at 7:15 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is incoherent. What exactly are you trying to say?

i used to call things i didn't like "libertarian" because i read an eXiled article one time, but then i stopped doing that
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:22 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny... a libertarian ex-coworker of mine just posted a link to Facebook about a proposed program to give New York citizens in high crime areas a $200 shotgun and training.

This is the same person that can argue that programs to help feed or educate poor people are a drain on the economy because they have to tax rich people to do it.
Free guns for the poor programs actually exist. Quick: guess which state.
posted by delmoi at 7:23 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There will be a huge shitstorm the first time one of these appears in an airplane or a courtroom. That's the real problem with this gun and the improvements on it that will come soon. Just because they put a metal cube in the prototype doesn't mean everyone (anyone?) else will. Just modify the file or, at worst, print an equivalent block of plastic.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:24 PM on May 7, 2013


Wik: Author Harlan Ellison describes the zip guns used by gangs in 1950s New York City as being made from tubing used in coffee percolators or automobile radio antennas, strapped to a block of wood to serve as a handle. A rubber band provides the power for the firing pin, which is pulled back and released to fire. The use of such weak tubing results in a firearm that can be as dangerous to the shooter as the target; the poorly fitting smoothbore barrel provides little accuracy and is liable to burst upon firing...
posted by ovvl at 7:25 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, for countries with actual gun control, this fuckwit will make it easier for guns to get out in the open. CAD files don't exactly respect national boundaries.

Why is that his problem? Should Americans be restricted from creating cryptographic software because it might fall into the hands of Chinese citizens?
posted by delmoi at 7:25 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Should Americans be restricted from creating cryptographic software because it might fall into the hands of Chinese citizens?
is it too late to start a whisper campaign about how everyone who uses cryptography is some sort of "creep"
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:30 PM on May 7, 2013


i used to call things i didn't like "libertarian" because i read an eXiled article one time, but then i stopped doing that

Ah, and once again you swoop in to save me from my own ignorance! I guess the guy who wants to destroy the government by promoting a radical definiton of liberty is... well, he's something else, but clearly not a libertarian. I mean, it's like he's (in the quote that I used directly) upholding liberty as the highest political end. If only we had a word to use to describe that philosophy, but unfortunately I'm not quite as smart as you seem to think yourself to be, so it's escaping me. Maybe you could provide the word for me, since typing out this paragraph has wearied my poor fragile brain.
posted by codacorolla at 7:35 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it really that much more difficult to construct a one-shot pistol using regular old methods compared to acquiring and learning how to use a 3D printer to make one?

You can make a perfectly functional, if crude, single-shot firearm out of plumbing parts at Home Depot. Once upon a time, the plans for such things were sold in the back of sketchy magazines. Now they're on YouTube. Either way, they're not new.

The whole 3D-printed-firearms thing is (apparently) scaring people by making them aware of a capability that anyone with a bench vise and access to a hardware store has had for years. Crude firearms are not hard to make.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:37 PM on May 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I guess the guy who wants to destroy the government by promoting a radical definiton of liberty is...

anarchist?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:40 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am also not entirely keen on the prospect of these migrating to countries that have democratically legislated strong gun control.

double block and bleed: That's the real problem with this gun and the improvements on it that will come soon.

Actually, considering the current state of internet troll culture I wouldn't be surprised to see "deprovements" circulating as well. I would be very reluctant to fire a round (at least, manually) from a schematic that I'd downloaded from the internet. Caveat impressor.
posted by curious.jp at 7:41 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hooray, we can finally be liberated from the tyranny of having five fingers on each hand.
posted by dr_dank at 7:43 PM on May 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


curious.jp: "Actually, considering the current state of internet troll culture I wouldn't be surprised to see "deprovements" circulating as well. I would be very reluctant to fire a round (at least, manually) from a schematic that I'd downloaded from the internet. Caveat impressor."

I wonder if you could build in a structural flaw that would make it burst and leave a scar shaped as the IP address you used when you downloaded it?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:46 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "CAD files don't exactly respect national boundaries."

I just checked and a torrent of the files to print The Liberator pistol are already up on The Pirate Bay.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:54 PM on May 7, 2013


I wonder if you could build in a structural flaw that would make it burst and leave a scar shaped as the IP address you used when you downloaded it?
that seems like a great way to injure some precocious teens

not really my bag, but w/e
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:57 PM on May 7, 2013


Remember this Malkovich movie? Where he makes a plastic gun that doesn't suck?

Speaking of guns that suck, NYT reported recently on a guy making $5 zip guns to scam a gun buyback program.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:00 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can't get gunpowder you could use CO2 or compressed air, if you can't get sulfur.

While air rifles powerful enough to reliably kill a person do exist, they're complex, precision devices. The linked rifle uses a 3000psi reservoir (made of carbon fiber) and an electronically controlled valve in order to squeeze a whopping 6 shots per fill out of the tank. Even then it only puts about 200 ft-lbf into a .357 caliber bullet, less than a third of a .357 magnum conventional cartridge and comparable to a .22 long rifle. I highly doubt someone could make a reliable, lethal air rifle using only an off-the-shelf filament-type 3D printer.
posted by jedicus at 8:09 PM on May 7, 2013


If the status quo is anything to go on, nothing would happen to ammunition availability even if thousands of people were killed with printed plastic guns each year.

It would all depend on who was getting killed by whom and whether those were thousands of additional deaths or just a different kind of gun being used.
posted by jedicus at 8:20 PM on May 7, 2013


Given the fact that compressed air rifles were built in the 1700s I'm guessing it can't require that much precision, and probably less then what's doable with a high quality 3D printer these days.

But whether it's compressed air or gunpowder I don't really see how it will be able to hold up to the pressure if it's just pure plastic.
posted by delmoi at 8:21 PM on May 7, 2013


Air guns are used for hunting in some countries where firearms are banned (including shotguns and arrow firing guns). Lewis and Clark carried an air rifle (so they would be able to continue to hunt if their gunpowder ran out).
posted by 445supermag at 8:22 PM on May 7, 2013


What was the name of that short sci-fi story... some fellow was charged with possession of a prohibited home-made energy weapon, and he ended up slyly describing the powerful, cheap and simple design to a packed and widely televised court room. They cut off the video feed when they realized the significance of his testimony, but by then it was too late. Everybody in the world now had the knowledge to carry the equivalent of a small atom bomb in their pocket for about twenty bucks in hardware store parts and a couple hours at a workbench.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:27 PM on May 7, 2013


The whole 3D-printed-firearms thing is (apparently) scaring people by making them aware of a capability that anyone with a bench vise and access to a hardware store has had for years. Crude firearms are not hard to make.

Many people don't have a bench vise or any expertise with tools. Likely, many, many people will soon have 3D printers, and they already have ability to press a button on a keyboard. Plus, not having to go to a hardware store makes it easier to do it without anyone knowing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:37 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


they already have ability to press a button

For some reason that brought to mind that scene from Starship Troopers. I think I see a simple solution to this whole problem... ;)
posted by MoTLD at 8:41 PM on May 7, 2013


Why is that his problem? Should Americans be restricted from creating cryptographic software because it might fall into the hands of Chinese citizens?

Yes, yes, guns don't kill people people do blah blah blah.

It's the logical and predicatable outcome of his actions. Is he responsible for what people do with his designs? No. Should he at least consider what might happen? Only if he has any aspirations towards being a decent and worthwhile human being.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:43 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


For some reason that brought to mind that scene from Starship Troopers. I think I see a simple solution to this whole problem... ;)

Bug invasion?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:43 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


CynicalKnight: Committee of the Whole by Frank Herbert.
posted by xiw at 8:51 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let me know when they can use a 3D printer to make gunpowder

I understand that this comment was probably intended to be a glib wisecrack, but 3d printers that synthesize chemical compounds are already being worked on.

And, as has already been noted, gunpowder is over a thousand years old and is not exactly hard to make. You may as well riff about not worrying until 3d printers can make lead.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:53 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Should he at least consider what might happen? Only if he has any aspirations towards being a decent and worthwhile human being.

No doubt the Manhattan Project scientists had difficulty sleeping some nights, even knowing they theoretically saved millions of lives on both sides.

This guy believes that the positives (because freedom!) outweigh the negatives (because children!) or he wouldn't have done it, but I'm sure he'll still have a few bad nights once one of his designs is used to kill an innocent. Must be common among weapons designers who are also human.

But if he hadn't done it, someone else would've, and he so far seems to be setting a pretty good tone IMO for the discussion of freedom versus security that this technology both inspires and requires.
posted by MoTLD at 8:55 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cody Wilson's Fully 3D-Printed Gun Works Alarmingly Well
posted by homunculus at 9:19 PM on May 7, 2013


In other news: Russia's Reinventing Its Most Iconic Weapon for the 21st Century
posted by homunculus at 9:22 PM on May 7, 2013


I think the reaction to this, for what it is, is a little overblown. If one's goal was to make a single shot gun instructions for zip guns have existed online forever. It's probably always going to be cheaper to go down to a hardware store and pick up a piece of pipe and a spring and a box of bullets then it will be to print a gun out like this.

I'm going to flatly say that it's impossible to get rid of musket equivalent guns like this a skilled person can, and in prison do manage to make guns.

This is scary because 3d printers have been toys, very expensive toys, and we're seeing them perverted into something no one wants.

I'm not scared of this thing even with substantial improvements in tech it's not going to be something the average kid prints out and then kills a classmate or whatever the concern is for someone who can get bullets but not a gun. Honestly people's concerns all seem a little far fetched.

I hope we have a shift in perspective about 3D printing because I guarantee the first death from a 3D printing won't be from an intentional malicious act. Some kid is going to print out a "toy" knife or something stumble and stab himself.

We are going to need to accept that despite the bright pastel colors of the ABS plastic the things it prints out aren't necessary toys.
posted by PBnFlash at 9:24 PM on May 7, 2013


10 things you missed at the National Rifle Association convention

54 Things I Learned At The Biggest Gun Show In The World
posted by homunculus at 9:37 PM on May 7, 2013


homunculus, one of your links led me, in a roundabout fashion, to a short essay which IMO should be the final, decisive argument as to why guns are a necessary evil.

Please, anyone, find a logical flaw in the argument. Not an emotional rebuttal, but a reasoned counterpoint.

That being said, I think the issue at hand is much bigger than just guns. If we were talking about a technology which allowed the creation at the press of a button of lethal viruses or killer nanobots out of the same device which can print life saving medicines or children's toys, we would still have to discuss censorship and the rebottling of Pandora's genies - as well as the positive uses of dangerous viruses and nanobots!
posted by MoTLD at 10:03 PM on May 7, 2013


I guess I am surprised that the NRA hasn't come out against this, given that they in truth are lobbyists for the gunmakers. Don't they get that, if everyone can print their own guns, fewer guns will be sold?
posted by newdaddy at 10:27 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's giving the game away. If he wants guns easily available to everyone, he should wait for 3D printers to be cheaper, easier and more widely distributed before passing around weapon blueprints.

The time to do it is when the RepRap 3D printer can truly print another 3D printer without the need for specialized components. At that point requiring software locks on building specific items is too late.
posted by dragoon at 10:57 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The other thing is that, of all the things he could have chosen to print with a three-d printer, this is what he came up with? Seriously? How about
- prosthetics for veterans
- toys for kids
- water pumps and water purifiers
- basic hand tools for subsistence farming
- cheaper medical equipment (an insulin pump, say)
- musical instruments
- something that's beautiful and does nothing else

There's more guns than people in America today, already. How many more guns does he actually think he needs to fill out his Red Dawn fantasy?

Maybe what we should be feeling is compassion. What happened to this guy, in his own private life, to make him feel so entirely unsafe, that the only response is to print out an endless stream of guns? Is this what he really wants to be remembered for? It seems like an astounding lack of vision.

I think of the Winchester house, the feeling his widow had of being haunted by ghosts of the victims of all his guns.
posted by newdaddy at 10:58 PM on May 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Please, anyone, find a logical flaw in the argument. Not an emotional rebuttal, but a reasoned counterpoint.

The essay you cite concludes as follows:
When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation…and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.
Here's your logical flaw. Guns are rarely used for self defence.

Further, the US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world. According to the essay that you consider to be the ultimate justification for guns, you should be the safest people in the world (or the most 'civilised', at least).

No. The US has the highest homicide rate of any developed nation.

No surprising, I suppose, given that studies have found that more guns = more homicide, across developed nations, and across US states. More on US states.

Having a gun in your home substantially increases your chance of getting killed by a gun, and your risk of suicide by gun.

Feeling safe?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:22 PM on May 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


Is there a machine 3D-printing clownsticks somewhere?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:53 PM on May 7, 2013


Guns are rarely used for self defence.

Though sometimes they are: A clear case of self-defense rallies supporters of gun rights
posted by homunculus at 11:58 PM on May 7, 2013


2 Killings and 2 Guns, Unattended
posted by homunculus at 12:02 AM on May 8, 2013


Though sometimes they are: A clear case of self-defense rallies supporters of gun rights

'Rarely' doesn't mean 'never'.

The question is, are those isolated instances worth the 11,000 or so gun murders that occur in the US each year?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:11 AM on May 8, 2013


Is there a machine 3D-printing clownsticks somewhere?

Probably. Check with Fox News.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:25 AM on May 8, 2013


MoTLD, you asked for a reasoned counterpoint.

Part 1: Guns are a poor defense against a mugger

False premise: "When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force." Consider how often criminals shoot each other.

I will grant that open carry might be a deterrent, but concealed-carry guns deter no one. Deterrents are implicit threats. A gun your mugger does not see will not scare him away at all. Also, consider the possibility that a gun might be an anti-deterrent. If your mugger notices that you are armed they have good reason to shoot you before you reach for your gun.

False premise: "The gun removes the disparity...between a potential attacker and a defender." An armed attacker, who presumably has his weapon drawn, has an overwhelming advantage over a defender with a holstered gun.

If you try to unholster a gun while someone is mugging you the odds that you will end up in the hospital or dead are quite high, even if you are skilled.


Part 2: Openly carried guns make you a free rider

Concealed carry guns deter no one, so let's talk about open carry.

False premise: "Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force." 98% of the encounters I have with people involve neither force nor reason. Think how many people you jostle past in a dense crowd. In civilized society we have the option of treating strangers with indifference. In a civilized society strangers can be safely ignored.

You know the saying "an armed society is a polite society"? Quite true. If two samurai so much as jostled each other someone might end up dead. A samurai would have been well advised to size up every person he passed on the road and conduct himself accordingly.

Carrying a weapon means that people would be well advised to treat you as a potential threat. Strangers don't know you. Perhaps you have a hair-trigger temper. Perhaps you're planning a crime. Let me put it this way: if you saw a stranger coming up behind you in an alley with a gun, would your pulse go up? If nothing else, sizing people up takes a moment of mental effort not otherwise needed.

Your gun may make you feel safe (questionable given part 1) but they make others feel less safe. Others are right to feel less safe around you. They don't know you. You need to ask what benefits you get out of carrying a gun that justify stressing strangers.

Sure, its a free country. If you decide to quit showering other people on the bus have to put up with the stench, and nobody's going to stop you. Your rights give you the freedom to stress others unnecessarily for no good reason if you so choose. Do you want to be that guy?


Part 3: Most gun deaths are not due to muggings

See his thoughts were red thoughts. Owning a gun is a risk to your family due to accidents and the increased risk of successful suicide attempts. If you are getting some benefit out of owning a gun that risk might be justified. Look, if you're a hunter or a farmer with a groundhog problem a long gun might be a useful tool worth owning. For self defense? Even if the argument in part 1 were false and carrying a gun made me safer while being mugged the odds of being in a mugging are low. A cost/benefit analysis would suggest that your family is safer without your handgun. If the argument in part 1 is correct it's no contest.

Sure, ultimately we do need to deter criminals with violence. That's why we have the police. In a civilized society the odds of being attacked in the street are low enough that it is no longer rational to endanger our families by owning weapons.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:30 AM on May 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


I should let this go, but here's one more argument. In countries like the United States or Canada very few people carry weapons on the street. In places like highlander Scotland, feudal Japan or modern Somalia lots of people carried weapons. Carrying weapons on the street is negatively correlated with the degree to which a place is civilized.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:49 AM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


His thoughts, I'm afraid you missed my point. Statistics alone do not a reasoned argument make. Explain to me why you believe your statistics show what you believe them to show, please.

The first point, the rarity of firearm self-defense, is hotly debated and the statistics are useless as each side can point to statistical evidence backing their claim - often from the same data set reinterpreted different ways. On preview, I see that justsomebody has done more of a logical instead of statistical rebuttal, and I'll address their points in my next (and last, for the night) comment.

As far as the US having a tremendous murder rate, I'll concede you that point. However, there's no causal link to its coincidentally high gun ownership rate. How about the fact that this country is more culturally diverse than any other on earth, with diversity's concomitant friction? Or the income inequality levels, especially in the most murder-prone areas? Need I even mention the tremendous black market caused by our War on Drugs?

As for more guns = more homicide, sorry, your links are useless. The first is to a map listing which states have a higher percentage of firearm-related homicides. Of course more firearms means more homicides by firearm. But that map doesn't show any overall homicide rates, just those percentages! And the other link is a list of very short summaries of studies published in journals I don't have access to, so again less than useful.

On your final link, there is an object lesson in why such summaries are useless: The study sample consisted of deaths that occurred in the home. Included were persons who subsequently died en route to or at a hospital. Gotta read deep to find that little gem. IOW, amend your claim to Having a gun in your home substantially increases your chance of having been killed by one if you died in your home or on the way from home to the hospital. A little too specific to be applicable to murders or suicides in general.
posted by MoTLD at 12:52 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking of our tremendous murder rate, has anybody else seen this recent Pew study? It certainly doesn't feel like it's down by half to me. Maybe a stats person could show me where they might be fudging the results, if they are indeed doing that?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:07 AM on May 8, 2013


MoTLD, the premise of that essay is comically childish. There are myriad ways to influence people (cf. marketing). No need to refute any points made about guns in particular.
posted by Chuckles at 1:20 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


justsomebody, you do make some good arguments, but they are too narrow.

Point one, a mugging, I agree! I would probably hand over my money. But a potential rape victim can't do that. Nor can another example from the essay, a gay man accosted by a pack of rednecks. Or a parent with a small child. Sometimes you just have to defend yourself!

As to concealed weapons, they are a deterrent the way jail time is a deterrent. Most crimes go unpunished, just like most victims are unarmed. A criminal would no more accost an openly armed individual than they would commit a crime in front of a cop. The probability of injury or jail time, respectively, is just too high for any but the most psychotic criminal to try. A concealed weapon, however, is still a deterrent, just like the cop around the corner that the criminal doesn't know is there. There might be a weapon, there might be a cop, so the criminal must factor the possibility, assuming there is reason to believe either could exist. In Somalia, no cops. In New York or Chicago, no legal concealed weaponry.

Point two, you kinda made for me :If two samurai so much as jostled each other someone might end up dead. A samurai would have been well advised to size up every person he passed on the road and conduct himself accordingly. Rephrase to "size up every samurai he passed," and you're accurate.

A common peasant jostling a samurai has a short life expectancy. In fact, the samurai class pretty much terrorized the peasantry. Guns destroyed the entire samurai culture specifically because they equalized the peasants. Highlander Scotland and the rest of Europe's feudal lord system suffered a similar fate.

Point the third, well, we've covered muggings and my last comment was all about the stats, so I guess all I can say is that if our society is so civilized that attack is so unlikely, then this gun problem is much ado about nothing, no?
posted by MoTLD at 1:25 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok I lied, one more before I go to bed.

Chuckles, you brought up a good point which I noticed as well as I read the essay.

Marketing, or more broadly manipulation, is a good example of a category of influencing which falls outside of either reason or violence. I think the author was just trying to avoid distraction in a short essay by lumping manipulation and other non-coercive means in with reason, but would it change the points made about violence if you replaced instances of "reason" in the essay with "non-violent, communication-based influencing" just to cover all the bases? Should we work in bribery or sexual favors, too, or would "non-violent, possibly remunerative, intimate, and/or communication-based influencing" just be comically childish? ;)
posted by MoTLD at 1:53 AM on May 8, 2013


His thoughts, I'm afraid you missed my point. Statistics alone do not a reasoned argument make. Explain to me why you believe your statistics show what you believe them to show, please.

Uh huh. All my evidence is invalid, but your unsupported allegations remain unassailable. I'm not engaging any further with this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:20 AM on May 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


middle-to-upper-middle-class people with a reasonable amount of social capital who live in larger metropolitan areas

that's funny, I happen to know another demographic just like that
posted by GenericUser at 2:56 AM on May 8, 2013


10 ProGun Myths, Debunked, from Mother Jones
posted by newdaddy at 3:56 AM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seems to me that, from what little information we get from the article, its description of Cody is about right: "a radical libertarian and an anarchist". Those are pretty close to synonyms, not mutually exclusive.
posted by Drexen at 4:11 AM on May 8, 2013


Further, their own 'mission statement' certainly strikes me as more libertarian than anarchist:

"The specific purposes for which this corporation is organized are: To defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court ..."

Also, although the source seems to be down now, Wikipedia says that:

"At Bitcoin 2012 in London, Wilson explained the organization as interested in inspiring libertarian forms of social organization and technologically driven inversions of authority."

A browse through Free Republic shows plenty of libertarians who are very happy about this, as well.
posted by Drexen at 4:22 AM on May 8, 2013


Speaking of our tremendous murder rate, has anybody else seen this recent Pew study? It certainly doesn't feel like it's down by half to me. Maybe a stats person could show me where they might be fudging the results, if they are indeed doing that?

It doesn't feel like it's down by half because

(1) The media have an interest in screaming MURDER MURDER MURDER to attract your attention, so you're much more aware of the smaller number of murders, and

(2) There have recently been a string of mass shootings and the Boston bombing. These things are rare and almost always kill few enough people that they're not noticeable against the background radiation of other murders, but they really REALLY attract attention and skew how you think about violence.

There's really not any dispute about this: violent crime in the US has been dropping like a rock since the early 90s. The most prominent explanations for this are a change in policing (which AFAIK is not borne out well by the data), the elimination of lead from gasoline reducing the number of people with poor impulse control, and legalized abortion reducing the number of unwanted, poorly-parented young men. I don't know if it's in the lit, but another obvious guess would be to look at consolidation of drug rings reducing the inter-criminal murder rate.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:42 AM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


far as the US having a tremendous murder rate, I'll concede you that point. However, there's no causal link to its coincidentally high gun ownership rate. How about the fact that this country is more culturally diverse than any other on earth, with diversity's concomitant friction?

Just to note: the US is not the most culturally diverse nation on earth. Not even remotely close.

Ethnically, the US is about as diverse as Spain or Chile -- notably less diverse than Canada, Switzerland, India, or Brazil. More diverse than Slovakia or the UK. The most diverse nations are, unsurprisingly, Papua New Guinea and various African nations. The most ethnically diverse advanced industrial state is Canada, which hardly supports your argument.

Culturally, the most diverse nations are various African and central Asian countries. The most culturally diverse advanced industrial nation was the USSR when it existed and is now, once again, Canada. The US is about half as culturally diverse as Canada, somewhat less diverse than Slovakia or New Zealand, and slightly more diverse than Spain or France.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:55 AM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


But it's quite difficult to reliably make something even remotely as powerful as modern commercial gunpowder formulations.

Making high quality black powders is easy -- even corning it is easy. All you need is an accurate scale. The trick, as in most cases with pyro compounds, is to do *everything* wet, only drying the final product. If you've done something wrong and it self ignites, it does so lying in big wide sheets and makes a stinky mess, but that's it. People in the 1600s made reliable BP, it's just not that hard. For the purposes of this gun, BP may be better, with the lower chamber pressure, and the fouling aspect of BP isn't important if you have to toss the thing after a few shots anyway.

Smokeless is a bit harder -- well, nitrocellulose isn't that hard to make, but quality control is harder. Unlike BP, you're working with very strong acids, but with good lab skills, you could make decent single-based smokeless powder pretty consistently. Basic guncotton is easy to make, but hard to make to a specific spec without lab skills. Making it safely is really a matter of attention to detail, esp. in corning/flaking to size, and packaging is important, you really want graphite coating, to make sure that static electricity conducts around, not into, the powder.

And, of course, there's a big difference, safety wise, between making half a pound of either and making 100 pounds of either.

Double-base and triple-base smokeless is *much* harder to do safely, because you need to make nitroglycerin, and seriously, folks, stay far away from anyone trying to do that -- as in "literally, be many tens of yards away from someone trying to make nitroglycerin."
posted by eriko at 5:06 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


It certainly doesn't feel like it's down by half to me.

Don't go by feeling. In the US, 1990-1995 was the peak of the homicide rate.

Hint: There are people *intentionally* trying to convince you that the homicide rate has never been higher. Ask yourself "Why would they do that?"

Then stop watching the news.
posted by eriko at 5:16 AM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, a few things.

Firstly, my usual spiel that guns are a terrible way to 'defend your freedom' compared to voting, so the whole thing is pretty silly. Secondly, even if your gun is totally plastic and will go through the x-ray machine at the airport, your bullets will not.

Also, there is a reason plastic (despite being so cheap and moldable) is not really used as a structural material; it tends to deform under load and break down under UV, so you'd have to be particularly brave to try to repeatedly contain an explosion in one. I'm not known for being the smartest guy on the planet or anything, but I'm pretty sure guns get kind of hot, and it looks like many 3D printers operate on thermoset plastics. This is not a good combination.

There are widely available guides that I won't link to which will direct you how to use a regular Bridgeport type mill to make an aluminum AR-15 receiver. Used mills/CNC machines are actually much cheaper than the 3D printers I am seeing online, and the bar for 'barely competent machinist' is not that high. Despite this, the streets have not been flooded with untraceable machined AR-15's.

Basically what I am saying is that this seems to be less about making a functional weapon and more about a strange "I LOVE MY TECHNOLOGY" crossed with "FREEEEEEEDOM!".
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:33 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tanizaki, as much as I admire what Lee Cronin is doing he is most definitely not printing out compounds. He is printing out specialised reaction vessels that can be then used to make compounds by carefully passing a stream of different chemicals into the reactors.

I actually got in an email argument with a BBC editor about how his story was misleading but was essentially dismissed out of hand because they needed a catchy headline and people wouldn't get that confused once they read the piece.

The best analogy I can come up with for Lee Cronin's work is imagine if you are assembling some flatpack furniture from IKEA. You need certain simple tools that can be used for a wide variety of jobs. Now imagine if each box came with its own tool that you could custom mold to your hand and it would make assembly simpler. Cronin's work essentially builds and molds those tools. All of the chemistry he is doing can be done, and is in fact done, using standard chemistry glassware. He builds a neat stackable flow system where you can just put the inputs in and get simple things out of the bottom. Most of his best work is in extending the advances made using flow chemistry anyways and in my mind it would be easier to make nitrocellulose in a glass beaker than it would be to make it in a specially made reactor. Note making black powder doesn't require any chemical reactions it is just getting the mixture of ingredients correct and ensuring even mixing.
posted by koolkat at 5:53 AM on May 8, 2013


Given the fact that compressed air rifles were built in the 1700s I'm guessing it can't require that much precision, and probably less then what's doable with a high quality 3D printer these days.

Actually, the Girandoni and related air rifles were quite finicky devices given the technology they were made with. Precision manufacturing alleviates a lot of the issues that plagued it and eventually led to it being abandoned. Air reservoir leakage was a major problem, for example, but there were others:
The General Artillery Director, the Duke of Colloredo himself, reported on July 21, 1789: “Due to their construction, these guns were much more difficult to use effectively than normal, as one had to handle them much more cautiously and carefully. In addition, the soldiers using them had to be supervised extremely carefully, as they were unsure about the operation. The guns become inoperable after a very short time – so much so that after awhile no more than one third of them were still in a usable state. We needed the whole winter to repair and replace them.”
A reliable, lethal air rifle really is a complex, precision device. The fact that finicky, delicate ones were made in the late 1700s does not disprove that assertion; quite the opposite.

Making high quality black powders is easy -- even corning it is easy. All you need is an accurate scale. ... People in the 1600s made reliable BP, it's just not that hard.

I have no doubt that someone could learn to make a decent or even very good black powder with proper instruction or considerable trial and error. It doesn't require complex technology. What I doubt is that someone could easily make a decent black powder knowing only the rough ratio of ingredients, as the Mythbusters discovered.
posted by jedicus at 6:19 AM on May 8, 2013


nitrocellulose isn't that hard to make, but quality control is harder.

Back in my grad student days, we used to do an open access week for the public and schoolkids every year. One of the chemistry department's contributions was, of course, the magic show. I did the "Dr. Cool" thing a few times---shattering frozen rubber tubing, banana hammers, dipping your hand in LN2, the usual stuff. The end of the show was run by the department's resident crazys: the synthetic fluoro- and nitro-chemists. One of their big things was making gun cotton, nitrocellulose from cotton balls, which they would use to produce bangs and flames. Excellent for waking up bored twelve-year-olds.

Every year, a week or two before the open access week, these three profs would make their gun cotton. They used the classic technique: immersing the cotton into a bath of nitric and sulphuric acids. As they had a few shows over the week to do, they'd make a few kilograms of gun cotton at a time. This usually worked fine, until one year it didn't. When they put the cotton in, it dissolved in the acid bath.

They had a couple-three kilos of dissolved nitrocellulose in a trough. One of the properties of liquid nitrocellulose, like TNT, is that it's very shock sensitive. A rough calculation by one of the profs indicated that there was enough explosive in the trough to make a very large hole in the building, possibly remove that wing entirely.

The ending was thankfully anti-climatic. The building was evacuated, the fire department called (who called the bomb squad), the solution was carefully diluted below the explosive limit and disposed of safely, the gang of three forbidden to ever make their own gun cotton again.

Even in a controlled lab environment, for chemists with decades of experience with very unstable syntheses, nitrocellulose manufacture isn't trivial.
posted by bonehead at 6:44 AM on May 8, 2013


Chris Rock had the solution long ago, one that was mentioned up top in different guise: $5000/bullet.
posted by Mister_A at 8:21 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess all I can say is that if our society is so civilized that attack is so unlikely, then this gun problem is much ado about nothing, no?

You've conceded my most important point. Attack is unlikely, therefore talk of needing guns for self defense is absurd.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:36 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Attack is unlikely, therefore talk of needing guns for self defense is absurd.

Or: Attack is unlikely, therefore talk of sacrificing liberty to solve a non-existent violence epidemic is absurd. ;)
posted by MoTLD at 8:55 AM on May 8, 2013


You could probably write a program to generate these bills. Cut out the middleman

Why not use the printer to make a 3D plastic Senate? Can't be worse than the ones we vote in.
posted by chavenet at 9:42 AM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Attack is unlikely, therefore talk of needing guns for self defense is absurd.

Hrmm, let's extend that logic:

Chance of (fire/earthquake/flood/accidental death/major injury or sickness) is unlikely, therefore talk of needing to purchase insurance to protect self or family from such events is absurd.
posted by de void at 10:10 AM on May 8, 2013


The real solution here is to legislate that gun owners insure their firearms. Why on earth would we require cars to be insured and guns not? There's a directly calculable risk associated with owning a gun, just as their is with owning a vehicle.
posted by newdaddy at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or: Attack is unlikely, therefore talk of sacrificing liberty to solve a non-existent violence epidemic is absurd. ;)

Talk of sacrificing liberty to solve a very real accident/suicide/impulsive violence problem is not absurd. It's the sort of trade-off we make in exchange for the benefits of civilization, like giving up my right to swing my arms wildly while walking down the sidewalk.

Chance of (fire/earthquake/flood/accidental death/major injury or sickness) is unlikely, therefore talk of needing to purchase insurance to protect self or family from such events is absurd.

Buying insurance does not endanger me or my family. The risks of accident and the increased suicide rate are disturbingly real. If you want to convince me, show me statistics that the cost/benefit ratio of reduced risk of death by street violence vs. increased risk of family member death by accident/suicide works out in your favor.

The statistics matter. I agree with you both that if the risk of street crime was extremely high it would justify owning a gun for self-defense. If I lived in Somali I would want to own a gun.

We've reached a point in the argument where we agree on theoretical principles. (pleasant surprise) Gun ownership is a good idea if guns reduce the risk of street crime and if that reduction exceeds the increased risk of accident/suicide/etc. Agreed? Show me statistical evidence in favor of those two propositions and you'll have me convinced.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2013


If the insurance could also cause fires, earthquakes, floods, accidental death, major injury, and sickness, then yes, claiming that a marker of civilization is saturating society with enormous quantities of it for the sake of defending against a relatively miniscule frequency of those things happening on their own is absurd. As would be, since back burning works when used by professional firefighters, saying that all of us ought to set everything on fire right now to prevent future wildfires from getting out of control. Or that, since throwing a person in jail can sometimes help to preserve freedom, everyone ought to be imprisoned all the time for the sake of freedom. But I think that arguing about this via sweeping analogies is not going to be very effective.
posted by XMLicious at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Plans for an Armed, July 4 March on Washington Can't Possibly End Well
posted by homunculus at 12:02 PM on May 8, 2013


Why on earth would we require cars to be insured and guns not?

Because owning a car is not a right listed in the bill of rights?

If you want to convince me, show me statistics that the cost/benefit ratio of reduced risk of death by street violence vs. increased risk of family member death by accident/suicide works out in your favor.

Will work on it - curious myself to see if I can work up the stats and if they'll make sense. Ok if I follow up with you via mefi mail as well as this thread, as it may be a couple of days?
posted by de void at 12:36 PM on May 8, 2013


Because owning a car is not a right listed in the bill of rights?

First of all, you're not a well-regulated militia, so the whole argument is BS.

Secondly, insurance and taxes are two ways to ensure that the full cost and risks to society are covered for the private ownership of dangerous things. Don't you think that if someone is harmed with a gun you own, you are at least to some degree culpable, and that, depending on the circumstances, you'd likely be defending yourself in criminal or civil court? Oh, well, that would never happen with your personal guns, you're so careful.

Take the preceding paragraph, and replace every instance of the word 'gun' with the word 'car'. You would be appalled, and rightfully so, if someone in your family were struck by an uninsured automobile. We ask people to buy insurance to help defray the societal costs incurred by these rare but severe accidents, as well as to protect themselves from litigation. No one intends for or believes their own car/gun will be involved in an accident. Just as you would be shirking your individual responsibility if you drive without insurance, there's a duty you're ignoring, you and all gun owners myself included, by not paying your fair share to cover the risks of gun accidents.

Insurance isn't infringing your right to own. It's expecting you to bear the full costs of ownership.

In some Star Trekkie future it might be possible to set up a replicator on a street corner and give a free plastic gun to every kid who comes by. Or just dump a pile of them on the sidewalk and walk away. If you were personally responsible (e.g. through insurance say) for what was done with those guns, you would have some financial incentive to make sure they were handled responsibly.
posted by newdaddy at 1:13 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I actually have to agree with de void that gun ownership being a fundamental guaranteed right matters, because if it's supposed to be something that every citizen is guaranteed access to then allowing the government to erect obstacles such as a prohibitive incidental cost too easily becomes a roundabout way of denying access.

Like, what if the government wanted to insist that what Wikileaks does is okay, they just have to pay insurance on the calculated societal costs of the information being disseminated? That pretty obviously would just be an instrumental way to prohibit undesirable speech. But we have a fundamental guarantee of a free press that supercedes other concerns.

We could debate whether gun ownership should be that sort of a fundamental guaranteed right, or whether the Second Amendment should really be interpreted the way that courts traditionally have done in the U.S., but I think it's correct to say that this is a material difference between insurance for operating a car and insurance for possessing a gun.
posted by XMLicious at 1:37 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


or whether the Second Amendment should really be interpreted the way that courts traditionally have done in the U.S.

By "traditionally", do you mean for about as long as the Large Hadron Collider has been operational?
posted by tonycpsu at 1:42 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


XMLicious, does the government then have the responsibility to provide guns to those of its citizens who cannot afford them?

The fact is, the amendment as written is entirely vague, and the courts and legislatures have manufactured a very specific set of rights around it. A flamethrower is pretty clearly an 'arm' in the sense that you can readily kill people with it, but we've by convention decided that, somehow, that's not what the second amendment is about.

Similarly, the second amendment doesn't say anything about ammunition. We could just as easily argue that that must not be covered then.

Nor does the second amendment protect the right to manufacture or make arms, explicitly. Just to 'keep and bear' them.

If we want the second amendment to mean anything, and to protect anything, we have to admit that it is not defending any and all things related to 'arms' absolutely and for any purpose. IANAL, but it seems to me that there's some understanding that the presence of arms in society is being protected not for your personal enjoyment but for some prophylactic purpose for society at large. It's that same society, i.e. all of us, that suffers when guns are entirely unregulated and unlimited. It's not guns nor gun owners for which the amendment is written, it's all of us. That's why the right is not absolute.

In 2010, 31076 Americans lost their lives in homicides, suicides and unintentional killings. In the same year, 73505 Americans were treated in hospital emergencies for non-fatal gunshot wounds. That sounds like a pretty big cost to incur annually, for whatever dubious, never-possible-to-accurately-calculate benefits that gun ownership confers on America.
posted by newdaddy at 2:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


By "traditionally", do you mean for about as long as the Large Hadron Collider has been operational?

Well, I'm certainly interested in hearing specific facts supporting historical interpretation by courts of the Second Amendment being solely related to service in a militia, since that's how I'd be inclined to interpret it as a layperson, but the citations in the "Legacy" section of the District of Columbia v. Heller decision article you link to would appear to be saying that it isn't going to result in a radical departure from how Second Amendment cases have been handled by courts in the past.

But even if that case means that the Second Amendment interpretation as a fundamental right to keep and bear arms is a completely new 21st-century thing, the fact that it's defined as a fundamental and Federal-Constitutionally-enumerated right still makes mandating insurance for possessing a gun different from mandating insurance for operating a car the way some states do, as I see it.

So IMO the objection still ought to be that the U.S. Constitution shouldn't or doesn't actually guarantee ownership of firearms as a fundamental right, not that contemporary legislatures should be able to declare some things important enough to allow obstruction of Constitutional rights, or to allow Constitutional rights to be dealt with as only so important as the ability to operate an automobile, without actually going to the trouble of amending the Constitution to explicitly declare those things more important.
posted by XMLicious at 2:30 PM on May 8, 2013


XMLicious, does the government then have the responsibility to provide guns to those of its citizens who cannot afford them?

Uh, no? I'm not sure why you would regard that as somehow following from what I said, since I didn't propose that everyone should get free newspapers due to the right to a free press or anything of that sort.

We probably mostly agree with each other. If you're arguing that the Second Amendment does not actually guarantee a right to own firearms and that's why the notions of mandating insurance for guns and cars are interchangeable, that seems fine to me. I'm simply saying that for any right that is genuinely guaranteed as fundamental in the legal system, whether or not it should be, you can't just swap out how that right is going to be treated with something like the ability to drive a car.
posted by XMLicious at 2:41 PM on May 8, 2013


Keep in mind, a legal right is different from a moral obligation. It might be your duty to own a gun to protect your family if you lived in Mogadishu even if Somali law prohibited it. You may have a moral duty not to own a gun (to preserve your family's safety) even if the 2nd amendment gives you the legal right to endanger them.

It looks like we're having a productive conversation about statistics. Here are some things that might convince me:

1) Stats showing that carrying a gun would in fact help me in a mugging.
- reduced chance of death
- reduced chance of serious injury
- reduced chance of losing my wallet

There has been debate on these points. Even pro-gun MoTLD mentioned that he would hand over his wallet if mugged rather than draw on an armed mugger. I agree -- the increased risk of injury/death is far too high. If my best course of action is to hand over my wallet, a gun would be of zero value to me.

2) Stats showing that reduced odds of mugging outweigh accident/suicide risks to my family

The anti-gun people have provided stats upthread regarding the increased accident/suicide risk. The pro-gun people have yet to provide hard data that this would be outweighed by reduced risk of street violence.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:07 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm certainly interested in hearing specific facts supporting historical interpretation by courts of the Second Amendment being solely related to service in a militia, since that's how I'd be inclined to interpret it as a layperson, but the citations in the "Legacy" section of the District of Columbia v. Heller decision article you link to would appear to be saying that it isn't going to result in a radical departure from how Second Amendment cases have been handled by courts in the past.

The short answer is that, until Heller, the Supreme Court had never ruled one way or another on the existence of an individual right to bear arms unconnected to the state militia. The court did issue a ruling in U.S. v. Miller suggesting that Second Amendment protections required a connection to the militia, and it wasn't until Clarence Thomas' opinion in 1997's Printz v. United States and Antonin Scalia's opinion in 2008's Heller that the court took a more hostile view toward the Miller verdict.

The (IMHO erroneous) 2008 and 2010 Roberts court rulings are indeed the law of the land, so yes, you are correct that we now live in a country with an individual right to bear some arms under some conditions. But even after these rulings, we (ostensibly) prevent sales to people with felony convictions, those adjudicated to be mentally defective, etc, and the National Firearms Act still exists, which means automatic weapons are subject to registration, transfer taxes, etc. So even today, the Second Amendment is not unlimited, and the individual right to bear arms is, in fact, infringed legally. So I don't see why mandatory insurance or even a registry for non-automatic weapons would necessarily run afoul of the modern day interpretation of the Second Amendment.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:32 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank goodness for this. The President and the US Congress have made it so difficult to purchase a real gun that OH FUCK IT I CAN'T EVEN
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:21 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


All else aside, the "armed society is a polite society" argument is problematic because, at least as presented here, it lumps two ideas together that aren't intrinsically linked.

Specifically: two of the ways you can assess a particular weapon are (1) "how effective is it, as a weapon?" and (2) "how 'defendable' is an attack from this weapon?". For (2), I mean "if someone attacks you with it, on average, do you have a reasonable shot at retaliating?"

Note that although to a certain extent these are not *entirely* independent -- a weapon that's trivial to counter is likely going be rather ineffective! -- but for our purposes we can assume that these two measurements are *reasonably* independent, at least enough to talk about them separately.

I'll claim that it's self-evident that a weapon that was very effective in sense (1) while also very difficult to "counter" in sense (2) would not promote a polite society, at least in any desirable sense; to the extent that firearms promote "polite society" it is because, by dint of their operational constraints, they've fallen into a kind of comfortable middle ground balancing reasonable amounts of (1) against reasonable degrees of (2).

But other future weapons may not have that lucky accident, and go completely nuts on (1) while simultaneously reducing the amount of (2) they afford. A hypothetical near-far-future example would be a bracelet housing some gnat-sized drones that can be wireless activated via cybernetic command from their owner and ordered to discretely fly up an opponents' nasal cavity, inject some cyanide, perhaps immediately or perhaps after tailing the suspect for some length of time; they could conceivably be given orders to leave the scene and self-destruct afterwards. If it worked it'd be a superior self-defense system to the common handgun on most if not all fronts, but it'd be a big step backwards for (2) (barring further sci-fi defense systems to balance it out).

And that's what's really of interest, here, I think: there's not that much that's interesting about 3d-printed guns at least right now, but as we head into the future advances in both miniaturization and in small-scale fabrication are going to lead into much more difficult and nuanced scenarios, and I think the thinking on these issues will have to change its terms and categories around to meaningfully address those new scenarios.
posted by hoople at 6:52 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu - that certainly seems like a good argument that Heller is a bad SCOTUS decision.

I guess what makes me hesitant about the idea of imposing mandatory insurance requirements in concert with this interpretation of the Second Amendment is that, even if it were really used to offset the societal costs of gun proliferation in general rather than being an indirect means of achieving gun control, it seems like it would set a precedent where the difficulty/cost of exercising one's fundamental rights is being tied very directly to how other people exercise those rights unrelated to you, through some actuarial calculation that would presumably be subject to legislative meddling; and would as usual present the greatest obstacle for the poorest citizens.

I'm not a gun owner and don't particularly care about gun rights but I would worry that establishing a status quo like that around one particular Constitutional right might create a slippery slope situation where a future right-wing legislature or administration could exploit it as justification to monkey with the freedom of the press, or freedom of religion, or things like the Citizenship Clause.

So I'd certainly much prefer abolishing the Second Amendment or legislatively specifying its meaning so as to override that Heller decision, or of course for a future SCOTUS to adopt a more reasonable interpretation. Or ideally having another Constitutional Convention to throw out all the antiquated crap at once, particularly the Duverger's Law, first-past-the-post stuff that forces our political system towards putting all the power in the hands of two parties. But those are all steep hills to climb, so I suppose we've got to concentrate our efforts on what's possible.

On preview, hoople's view is actually the way I've seen it since the last few massacres happened: that even though I'm inclined to support gun control, with all of the flying killer robot stuff I'm expecting handguns to become somewhat obsolete as a way of hurting other people well before anything effective gets accomplished legislatively to limit guns. And/or maybe gun-disabling gnat drones that crawl in and gum up the works before a gun is even drawn, or where it's still in storage, will make it all moot.
posted by XMLicious at 7:16 PM on May 8, 2013


Take the preceding paragraph, and replace every instance of the word 'gun' with the word 'car'. You would be appalled, and rightfully so, if someone in your family were struck by an uninsured automobile. We ask people to buy insurance to help defray the societal costs incurred by these rare but severe accidents, as well as to protect themselves from litigation. No one intends for or believes their own car/gun will be involved in an accident. Just as you would be shirking your individual responsibility if you drive without insurance, there's a duty you're ignoring, you and all gun owners myself included, by not paying your fair share to cover the risks of gun accidents.

Hello! You are in luck. Not only have I been struck by an uninsured driver, but I am a lawyer so I can also unravel the flaws in the legal aspects of your argument.

I was struck by an uninsured driver because he was reading while driving. Guess what he was reading? He was reading his summons to appear in court that morning for another car crash. (I was appalled!) Oh, and guess what? No-fault insurance does not protect you from litigation if you are negligent in a crash. "Subrogation" is a word that you should add to your vocabulary.

We do not require people to purchase insurance for simply owning cars. Insurance is required in certain states in order to drive a car on public roads. I had to instruct a car salesman in this several year ago when I bought my car. He wanted proof of insurance before giving me the car and title certificate. I explained that since I was buying the car with cash, the dealership had no interest in the car so my insurance was none of its business. Eventually, his smart supervisor told him that I was right and I left with my car.

To also talked about "if someone is harmed with a gun you own, you are at least to some degree culpable". Well, that is going to depend on your state's dangerous instrumentality doctrine, but such doctrine always requires entrustment of the property. In other words, I can be vicariously liable if I lend my car to you and you crash it into someone, but I am not liable if you take my car without my permission and crash it.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:57 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the logical and predicatable outcome of his actions.
"You shouldn't develop a perfectly legal technology because other people in other countries where it's illegal might use it" isn't really a good argument against something.

"You shouldn't create a technology that people will use to kill each other" is better, but has nothing to do with various laws in various countries.
I'm going to flatly say that it's impossible to get rid of musket equivalent guns like this a skilled person can, and in prison do manage to make guns.

This is scary because 3d printers have been toys, very expensive toys, and we're seeing them perverted into something no one wants.
Obviously some people want it. Now clearly, this person has drunk a few metric tons of libertarian kool-aide and thinks he's saving the world from oppressive governments, which is absurd.

However, I think the general idea is simply to demonstrate something that's inherently true about 3D printing. Which is that you can use it to make guns. What's strange about some of these comments is that people seem to think that somehow if this guy hadn't done this it would never have happened. Someone is going to end up making 3D printed guns at some point, and I think eventually one will be used in a crime.

But at the end of the day, making guns just isn't that hard. Vice recently shot some video of a 'backyard gunsmith' in the philipines who made guns literally out of scrap metal using what appeared to be files and dremels and stuff (we didn't see all of his gear) He was probably a highly skilled craftsman, but as technology advances I don't see why metalworking won't become cheaper along with 3D printers and stuff.
homunculus, one of your links led me, in a roundabout fashion, to a short essay which IMO should be the final, decisive argument as to why guns are a necessary evil.
Please, anyone, find a logical flaw in the argument. Not an emotional rebuttal, but a reasoned counterpoint.
A logical flaw? Well, that's simple, it's the same flaw as every supposedly 'logical' argument about human society, human interaction and society are not logically defined by strictly defined set of axioms, and therefore, cannot be reasoned about in a purely logical way. In fact, the article does not even bother to try to setup a set of axioms and deduct from those axioms. So it never even had a chance to be logical.

What I think most people don't understand about logic, is that you can't even begin to analyze whether or not an argument is logical unless you understand formal logic. And if you do understand formal logic, then you will know that almost all arguments people make and call 'logical' are not. Basically, unless it's a mathematical proof about something that would be true in any imaginable universe, it's almost certainly not logically consistent.

(now what you can do is take probability theory, use that properly and say things like "given the data and the axioms of probability theory we have there is an X% chance that Y is true" but that's the best you can do)

That's not to say it's not a good argument, just that isn't and could never be "logical"

Also it's not a good argument. People who don't carry guns are willing to accept the risk that something bad might happen to them. The essay defines "civilization" as being in a society where no one forces you to do things that you don't want to do. The argument is a typical "redefine terms so that people have to agree with me or else agree with something that sounds stupid because I redefined the terms"

If you replace "civilization" with "X" and define X that same very specific way, people who don't want guns would have no problem saying they would like to live in a society without "X".

Now, lets say you're completely convinced that that definition of civilization is the correct one. In that case the UK, Japan, Australia, etc are "uncivilized" Yet, they are perfectly nice places to live. In that case the problem with that argument is that it does not show, or even bother to try showing that "civilization" is preferable to living in an "uncivilized" society. Many people would be perfectly happy to live in an "uncivilized" country with few guns and less crime.
posted by delmoi at 8:31 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Texas Congressman Holding Contest for Free AR-15 Assault Rifle
posted by homunculus at 9:15 PM on May 8, 2013


Nobody ever seemed to buy the polymer one-shot in Cyberpunk 2020.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:35 AM on May 9, 2013


MoTLD: "homunculus, one of your links led me, in a roundabout fashion, to a short essay which IMO should be the final, decisive argument as to why guns are a necessary evil.

Please, anyone, find a logical flaw in the argument. Not an emotional rebuttal, but a reasoned counterpoint.
"

Alright.

Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force.

False dichotomy. He even denies the existence of non-fatal beatings because they don't fit into the categories he needs to make his argument. In fact it's a spectrum that is not directly dependent on the presence or non-presence of a gun. Not that it's relevant, because:

When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force.

Wrong. You can still be stuck up, caught by surprise, ambushed, preemptively shot, outnumbered, etc. Your gun might be stolen and used against you. And if you wield or carry a gun in an illegal way, the police will deal with you using force. All of these are utterly obvious in real life. If what he said was true, no gun-battle or shoot-out would ever happen.

The gun is the only personal weapon that puts [X, Y, Z] on an equal footing.

Only in the most abstract possible sense, that doesn't take into account any of the real-world possibilities above. Also, even then, a gun doesn't put you on an "equal footing" with, say, two people with guns.

People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society.

Strawman.

A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

Counterfactual. In the real world muggers make livings by enacting an extremely local force monopoly by their own efforts. And having a gun makes it much easier for them to do that.

Then there’s the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways.

Certainly not the ways he brings up...

Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser.

No. What about threats? shock? grappling? With a gun, 'overhwelming' is far more likely to mean 'fatal' or 'maiming'.

If both are armed, the field is level.

Even if this were true (it isn't), it wouldn't support the claim he's making, that guns don't make confrontations lethal.

The gun is the only weapon that’s as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weightlifter.

... if you don't take into account any of the thousand other factors like training, willingness to shoot, speed, element of surprise, etc.

I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid.

If you're not afraid, why do you need a gun to enable you to be unafraid?

It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason

Unless you choose to use your gun to resort to force.

It removes force from the equation

No, it introduces force into the equation, supposedly to counterbalance someone else's ability to use force, as you said earlier.

and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

Not demonstrated. See me after class. By the way, all of his arguments and assumptions have errors, I only skipped some to save space.
posted by Drexen at 5:11 AM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Bravo, Drexen.

You have way more patience than me.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:24 AM on May 9, 2013


If both are armed, the field is level.

And to add something to this: even in the fantasy world where this is actually the case, you're still far worse off than you were without a gun. A level field means you both have an equal chance. So at best you have a 50% chance of being killed. The other 50%, even in the best case scenario, is killing another human in self-defense, and even if you think that's a justified response to a mugging, which is insane, you will suffer negative consequences to your situation and to your mental health, and if you think you won't, you're catastrophically naive or a psychopath. Either way, you shouldn't have a gun.

What's more, you've moved onto a different and far more lethal field. You've all but ensured that one of you will be shot. Only in Hollywood do people point guns at each other and then calmly, rationally decide not to shoot. You have eliminated the escape window that co-operating constituted, and even though co-operating doesn't 100% guarantee your safety, the odds are a hell of a lot better than you've made them by carrying and reaching for your gun. On the other hand if you do cooperate and you have a gun, at best you've lost a wallet and given a gun to a criminal, or at worst he'll still shoot you just to be sure you're not e.g. carrying a backup weapon, or just because he's spooked by the danger.
posted by Drexen at 6:20 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


And if you don't want to rely on point-by-point arguments, you can look at the real-world results.

Guns make you less safe, not more safe: [1] [2] [3] [4]
posted by Drexen at 6:59 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


In that case the UK, Japan, Australia, etc are "uncivilized" Yet, they are perfectly nice places to live.
aren't those all like really racist

japan has the prejudice against ainu and korean/taiwanese/etc., australia has that against the aboriginals, UK has the BNP
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:08 AM on May 9, 2013


Only in Hollywood do people point guns at each other and then calmly, rationally decide not to shoot.

Or they do. I just wanted to agree that Hollywood is a big part of this issue when a large subset of American films are as much a paean to gun culture as anything else. (I'm thinking back to the 60's & 70's FFS - I've never even seen a Tarantino film.) It really looks (to a Canadian, anyway) that much of what people believe about guns and their place in society is exactly the way they are represented in movies and TV. If nothing else, Hollywood's influence explains the pervasive fear of violence that justifies all sorts of gun-promoting arguments.
posted by sneebler at 9:12 AM on May 9, 2013


Still waiting for statistical evidence supporting the pro-gun position.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:27 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can still be stuck up, caught by surprise, ambushed, preemptively shot, outnumbered, etc. Your gun might be stolen and used against you.

This also applies to law enforcement officers. Do you find this to be a compelling reason for them not to be armed? I presume not since you remark that "the police will deal with you using force", and I assume "force" means something beyond harsh language.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:16 PM on May 9, 2013


Tanizaki: "This also applies to law enforcement officers. Do you find this to be a compelling reason for them not to be armed? I presume not since you remark that "the police will deal with you using force", and I assume "force" means something beyond harsh language."

Yes, ideally police officers shouldn't be armed with guns for much the same reasons that random citizens shouldn't be. It tends to increase violence and the fatality of violence. This is done in many countries where guns are not otherwise widespread. Police do not (usually) need guns to exert force unless everyone else is armed.

Having said that, the odds are more balanced in the favour of police regarding carrying a gun, because they have many complementary forms of protection -- in even harsher legal penalties for attacking them, in their superior training, and in their authorization and ability to escalate the fight over and above what any given criminal can deal with, if necessary, even if they suffer casualties.

And either way, it doesn't mean that gun control should start with disarming police - that should be the last step. Police are most effective and have less need to resort to overbearing tactics, like carrying guns, when they have a monopoly on violence - another reason for gun control.

And if you think that's a recipe for tyranny that only an armed populace can solve (no-one's said this, I just anticipate it), I don't know what to tell you other than that violent individual resistance against the police is hopeless (as it should be), violent mass resistance against the police is not something worthy of consideration, and the whole topic is moot and a separate topic from the self-defense value of guns in America-as-we-know-it. Which as per my comment above, is less than nil.
posted by Drexen at 1:33 PM on May 9, 2013


aren't those all like really racist

what

is that supposed to be a fact and relevant

again with the overly ambiguous and apparently spurious comments
posted by Drexen at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2013


At the Command of the State Department, Defense Distributed Pulls Its 3D Printed Gun Blueprints

A letter came from DDTC at State**, saying that they need to examine if Defense Distributed broke laws governing exports of class one munitions (which includes blueprints). As per the letter, "transferring technical data to a foreign person, whether in the United States or abroad, is considered an export."

**"The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), in accordance with 22 U.S.C. 2778-2780 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) (22 CFR Parts 120-130), is charged with controlling the export and temporary import of defense articles and defense services covered by the United States Munitions List (USML)."
posted by gemmy at 2:01 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


3d Gun plans taken down over ITAR concerns

The International Traffic In Arms Regularions. (ITAR) are a set of regulations designed to control the export of munitions and weapons from the US. It appears that Defense Distributed could be in significant legal trouble over their actions. Each violation of ITAR could result in a fine of $1 million dollars and 20 years in prison. ( 22 U.S.C. 2778(c) ).
posted by humanfont at 2:04 PM on May 9, 2013


even harsher legal penalties for attacking them, in their superior training, and in their authorization and ability to escalate the fight over and above what any given criminal can deal with, if necessary, even if they suffer casualties.

"Even harsher legal penalties" is not persuasive if the criminal is committing a capital crime in any event. I am also not convinced that criminals avoid attacking cops because they are worried about a statutory aggravating factor.

I anticipated a comment along the line of "superior training". Your naivete is endearing. At least in the US, police firearms qualification standards are comical. I presume you are familiar with this recent pray and spray? That was at a distance of three yards, by the way.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:11 PM on May 9, 2013


What's your take on the ITAR thing as a person with legal experience/training (but not our lawyer, their lawyer or offering legal advice), Tanizaki?
posted by humanfont at 2:15 PM on May 9, 2013


Tanizaki: "Even harsher legal penalties" is not persuasive if the criminal is committing a capital crime in any event. I am also not convinced that criminals avoid attacking cops because they are worried about a statutory aggravating factor.

Most crimes aren't capital crimes - and even then, attacking a cop is still going to put you in worse shape legally, increase the efforts to find you, etc. I am convinced that the statutory aggravating factor protects cops to an extent.

(Besides, there should be no such thing as a capital crime - but that's another issue).

I anticipated a comment along the line of "superior training". Your naivete is endearing. At least in the US, police firearms qualification standards are comical. I presume you are familiar with this recent pray and spray? That was at a distance of three yards, by the way."

Yes, I sure am a cheerleader for the cops and think they operate perfectly!

The flaws in police training are a good argument against them being armed so heavily and given so much authorization though, you're right. Nevertheless, even in the US, the average cop is better trained than the average citizen.

All this is besides the fact that the police's ability to call on an overwhelming backup force is their main protection.

Are you under the impression that I think all cops should have guns, ideally? Because I said exactly the opposite, in the very comment you quoted. I'm not really sure what your line of argument is here.
posted by Drexen at 2:34 PM on May 9, 2013


(And since cops aren't going to be using 3D-printed plastic guns, it's a side-issue anyway).
posted by Drexen at 2:57 PM on May 9, 2013


I don't know what to tell you other than that violent individual resistance against the police is hopeless (as it should be)
I read you saying that, but for some reason an image of Rodney King comes into my head. Would you say that this is relevant?
violent mass resistance against the police is not something worthy of consideration

hmm
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:59 PM on May 9, 2013


Would you say that this is relevant?

No, I wouldn't say it is relevant. Would you? Do you think violently resisting would have helped Rodney King?

hmm

YES/NO
posted by Drexen at 3:05 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Should it have? Wouldn't it have been better if he could have done something other than get beaten?
YES/NO
I realize that we've reached the end of history and any kind of violent resistance will probably never be necessary again, but is that really the kind of thing you can give a YES/NO answer to? It would seem to be a situational thing.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:03 PM on May 9, 2013


This, of course, alludes to you: "Should it have? Wouldn't it have been better if he could have done something other than get beaten?

Unfortunately, I don't think it really would, in practical terms. Certainly not if that something is pulling a gun, because then he would surely have been killed, or if not, beaten even more badly, whether or not he actually used the gun. It would almost certainly not have led to his escaping, especially not in the long term.

It would also have severely prejudiced his case against him and also would have sunk the chances of it becoming such a landmark case against police brutality. If anything it would have weakened that cause, and encouraged cops to be brutal and to take more extreme measures against future suspects. The camera watching his beating was far more useful than a gun could ever have been.

And even if you feel using a gun would have been justified/sensible in his situation, how on earth would you ensure he would only use it in that sort of extreme circumstance? He was a paroled robber, should they all have guns? If you give him a gun, who do you not give one to? Murderers only? As a solution it's beyond impractical.

His beating was, of course, a travesty of justice and an all-too-common example of police brutality. But giving him a gun is not the answer to that. Even if it wasn't so certain to make the situation drastically worse for him, people should not have the option to evade or ward off the police through force, full stop. There is no system we could enact that would lead to discretionary violent resistance against police being a useful check/balance or avoiding the disastrous toll of it. Police misconduct must be prevented and prosecuted using judicial and systematic means. It's terrible that that sometimes results in people having to endure abuse, and that abuse sometimes/often goes unpunished. But it is a far more effective method of improving things in the long term, and indeed, it's the only way to have a viable police system at all.

"I realize that we've reached the end of history and any kind of violent resistance will probably never be necessary again, but is that really the kind of thing you can give a YES/NO answer to? It would seem to be a situational thing."

Actually I was more giving a glib non-answer, because what else is there to say to 'hmm'? But anyway: it's not inconceivable that some set of extreme circumstances might leave a population with no choice but to wage war against the police. But those circumstances are so far removed from the circumstances of any developed nation (or almost any nation) today that it's really a red-herring to talk about it in this context or to base actual, current, real-world policy on it.
posted by Drexen at 6:13 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whatever you feel about guns, all this company was distributing was data. Speech, essentially.

Should this speech be illegal?

How about PGP or Netscape, the previous "munitions" this law shut down legal export of?

What's next on the list of things we aren't allowed to tell the rest of the world?

I want a DeCSS-style Liberator t-shirt to wear on my next overseas trip... ;)
posted by MoTLD at 7:54 PM on May 9, 2013


I realize that we've reached the end of history and any kind of violent resistance will probably never be necessary again

Next time an internecine violent struggle breaks out somewhere in the developed world such as the U.S. both sides will probably have drones, quite possibly ones that are able to autonomously hunt down and kill people or carry out demolition equivalent to taking down the Twin Towers or deliver chemical or biological weapons. Imagine if these things or these things were trying to kill you, even without any sort of conventional weapon mounted on them—and those aren't very different from mass-produced toys that are available today.

This is why, though the principles involved are all important, it seems like the efforts on the part of both pro-gun and gun control activists are wasted: it looks like "fighting the last war" stuff to me.

Gun control won't prevent any wackos from using drones or other improvised autonomous weapons to carry out massacres and a hand-held firearm isn't going to be leveling any playing fields once things like that are common and the average teenager can send a fleet of slightly-modified toys to kill you and take your prepper stash of canned green beans and aquarium antibiotics, because you have to sleep some time and you can't keep all of them from getting to you no matter how good a shot you are. Heck, maybe one could sneak in to your compound and pick up a gun from your own arsenal and off you with it.
posted by XMLicious at 7:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whatever you feel about guns, all this company was distributing was data. Speech, essentially.

[Citation needed] for data = speech.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:20 PM on May 9, 2013


Well, when it's printed on a t-shirt, it's speech, right? Should I be arrested for wearing that shirt through customs?

(Yes, for the pedantic, I am aware of the difficulty I would encounter in trying to fit this on a shirt. I assume I would need a superior encoding scheme - something with a very high thread count. ;)
posted by MoTLD at 8:46 PM on May 9, 2013


But you raise a good question. When, if ever, is a public web site('s data) not speech, for the purposes of freedom of speech?
posted by MoTLD at 9:11 PM on May 9, 2013


My first thought was that broadcasting surveillance data equivalent to an illegal wiretap would not be kosher, though I don't know if that would be considered speech.
posted by XMLicious at 9:16 PM on May 9, 2013


a hand-held firearm isn't going to be leveling any playing fields once things like that are common
So did we just not have advanced enough technology in Iraq?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:34 PM on May 9, 2013


There is no system we could enact that would lead to discretionary violent resistance against police being a useful check/balance or avoiding the disastrous toll of it.

So what's the reason Stonewall doesn't count, here?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:40 PM on May 9, 2013


Well, when it's printed on a t-shirt, it's speech, right? Should I be arrested for wearing that shirt through customs?

Are you using the shirt to 'transfer technical data to a foreign person'? If so, it's probably illegal, t-shirt or no.

'But...but...speech!' is an vastly oversimplified, incomplete and, utimately, childish argument. 'Freedom of speech' is not, and has pretty much never been, an unlimited right. See, for example; shouting 'fire' in a crowded fireless theatre, defamation, harrassment, threats...etc.

The actual question is whether it is 'protected speech'; in this case, it is obviously not, as there are laws prohibiting it.

Data does not = protected speech automatically. Neither do t-shirts. The medium is not the message.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So did we just not have advanced enough technology in Iraq?

Not quite sure what you're saying there... Iraq definitely was not remotely near a level playing field and U.S. forces would have had no difficulty simply killing everyone in the country and taking all of their stuff if that had been their objective, despite all of the hand-held firearms in the possession of Iraqis.

And U.S. forces didn't even have the kind of autonomous drones that could fan out over the country, find everyone holding a gun or who does not drink Coca-Cola enthusiastically enough while under surveillance, and summarily execute them, which is the sort of thing I'm talking about. Guns definitely would not level any playing fields when your opponents are using weapons that do not even require them to be face-to-face with you, much less weapons that don't even require them to decide to kill you because the weapons can do that on their own.
posted by XMLicious at 10:00 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gun control won't prevent any wackos from using drones or other improvised autonomous weapons to carry out massacres

On the contrary, gun and ammunition control is our best chance of banning armed drones. Controls on precursor chemicals for explosives are our best chance of banning flying hand grenades. Homemade bombs and guns are much less forgiving than model helicopters, and over time quadrotor design is only going to get easier.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:12 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


shouting 'fire' in a crowded fireless theatre,

way to use a defense of the 1917 espionage act :|
Iraq definitely was not remotely near a level playing field and U.S. forces would have had no difficulty simply killing everyone in the country and taking all of their stuff if that had been their objective

And U.S. forces didn't even have the kind of autonomous drones that could fan out over the country, find everyone holding a gun or who does not drink Coca-Cola enthusiastically enough while under surveillance, and summarily execute them

So because it doesn't answer to the worst possible scenarios, it doesn't answer to any of them?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:18 PM on May 9, 2013


On the contrary, gun and ammunition control is our best chance of banning armed drones. Controls on precursor chemicals for explosives are our best chance of banning flying hand grenades.

But with a drone, particularly an autonomous drone, you aren't going to need to have a hand grenade attached to it to kill anyone. For example you could take a few dozen robots designed to fold your laundry and mix cocktails for you at home, fasten icepicks to them, and release them in a crowded area with instructions to stab anything that looks like a face, and probably acheive a higher body count and more severe injuries than the Boston Marathon bombings did.
posted by XMLicious at 10:29 PM on May 9, 2013


So because it doesn't answer to the worst possible scenarios, it doesn't answer to any of them?

No, it doesn't answer any of them because it doesn't have anything to do with whether or not a person fighting against an opponent who is attacking them with a bunch of assassin drones (y'know, the actual things I described rather than the surveillance drones that were in use during most of the Iraq War) levels the playing field by picking up a gun.
posted by XMLicious at 10:29 PM on May 9, 2013


To elucidate - if you can give an example where someone targeted for killing with a drone did better upping their odds against the person or organization who selected them as a target by having a gun, rather than simply by effectively hiding from a drone flying at altitude that was based on 20th-century-military technology which again is not at all what I described, that would be relevant; but just handwavily exclaiming "The Iraq War!" is not any sort of demonstration that or even an argument why an average person with a hand gun will outmatch or have an even chance against an average person armed with autonomous drones in 2020 or 2050.
posted by XMLicious at 10:45 PM on May 9, 2013


way to use a defense of the 1917 espionage act :|

What can I say, Oliver Wendell Holmes had a way with words. It's still a good example:
The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.
Holmes was almost certainty referencing to real incidents in which someone falsely shouted 'fire', caused a panic, and people got killed or injured.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:48 PM on May 9, 2013


whether or not a person fighting against an opponent who is attacking them with a bunch of assassin drones (y'know, the actual things I described rather than the surveillance drones that were in use during most of the Iraq War) levels the playing field by picking up a gun.
Wouldn't that depend on the actual drone and the gun?
if you can give an example where someone targeted for killing with a drone did better upping their odds against the person or organization who selected them as a target by having a gun
Isn't a lot of that stuff classified? Also, would my examples even be relevant? Does what you're describing, these assassin swarms, exist yet?
but just handwavily exclaiming "The Iraq War!" is not any sort of demonstration that or even an argument why an average person with a hand gun will outmatch or have an even chance against an average person armed with autonomous drones in 2020 or 2050.
This is starting to sound like a defense of rights to autonomous weaponry.
Holmes was almost certainty referencing to real incidents in which someone falsely shouted 'fire, caused a panic, and people got killed or injured.
I thought the deal there was that anti-union thugs barricaded the doors so that the people couldn't get out?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:57 PM on May 9, 2013


I thought the deal there was that anti-union thugs barricaded the doors so that the people couldn't get out?

I believe that allegation was never conclusively proven; there were conflucting stories with evidence on both sides. There's a fair amount of detail in the wiki link.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:04 PM on May 9, 2013


Also, is it really a good analogy if its first use was to attack an anti-war/anti-draft protester? From the article on it, even Holmes doubted the decision later on. Is this true?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:13 PM on May 9, 2013


Also, is it really a good analogy if its first use was to attack an anti-war/anti-draft protester?

Yes? The point - that free speech has limits - is still valid, even if you don't like the decision from which the analogy originates.

From the article on it, even Holmes doubted the decision later on. Is this true?

Dude, I don't know. It's not like we were BFFs. You have access to the same internet that I do.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:19 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes? The point - that free speech has limits - is still valid

A lot of those limits have turned out to be either useless or pretty terrible, though.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:22 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does what you're describing, these assassin swarms, exist yet?

No; although I'd think that if their sensor system were extended the quadcopters I linked to above which were juggling a weighted pole would probably be coordinated enough to be guided into someone's house, pick up a kitchen knife with a magnet or something, and stab a sleeping victim somewhere lethal. And of course simpler things like delivering anthrax or sarin from a quadcopter are definitely possible, though the control regimes for those substances which justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow mentions would be relevant in that case. And check the video in that first link if you want to see swarm-like behavior.

The more fully-fleshed-out sort of situation I'm envisioning where things like that are more autonomous, easily directed and programmed through a standardized interface, and commonly available does not exist yet. But as far as I've looked into it there don't seem to be any insurmountable engineering barriers, so I'd expect that some version of that state of affairs will develop eventually. I could certainly be wrong, but advancements in UAVs and more sophisticated behavior at the toy-like quadcopter level proceed apace in a way that doesn't dissuade my expectation.

With any luck an expert in this sort of stuff will happen along and be able to give a better opinion on how feasible that sort of future is...

This is starting to sound like a defense of rights to autonomous weaponry.

It's not. What I'm saying is that if by 2020 or 2030 autonomous drone weapons that are much more effective than guns are easily available and easily improvised from other sorts of flying robots, it's basically moot or at least far less significant whether or not we enact gun control measures that take however many years to draw down the pool of available guns sloshing around the country enough to make the difference in violent crime statistics and the like which gun control is intended to achieve. At least it would be moot compared to a future more similar to the present where the most formidable civilian opponent for someone possessing a gun is just another person with a gun, in which case the presence or absence of gun control would have a more material effect.
posted by XMLicious at 11:30 PM on May 9, 2013


A lot of those limits have turned out to be either useless or pretty terrible, though.

And a lot of them remain foundational to the concept of freedom of speech. What's your point?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:38 PM on May 9, 2013


This, of course, alludes to you: "So what's the reason Stonewall doesn't count, here?"

Guns weren't involved.
posted by Drexen at 2:12 AM on May 10, 2013


State Department orders firm to remove 3D-printed guns web blueprints


The US government has blocked a Texas-based company from distributing details online of how to make a plastic gun using a 3-D printer.

The ban, by the State Department citing international arms control law, comes just days after the world's first such gun was successfully fired.

Defense Distributed, the company that made the prototype, stated on Twitter that its project had "gone dark" at the instigation of the government.

posted by jquinby at 5:50 AM on May 10, 2013


[Citation needed] for data = speech.

How about Bernstein v. US Department of Justice?

...in which Prof. Bernstein demonstrates conclusively that source code is communicative as well as functional, by supplying a short COBOL program that is easily readable and understandable by a person, as well as a computer.

This one was also about a "munitions" export forbidden by ITAR which consequently shut down all legal publication of certain speech.

Is a CAD file not a form of source code? Could it not be expressed in a human-readable format, for instance as a list of the instructions to be sent to the printer?

The actual question is whether it is 'protected speech'; in this case, it is obviously not, as there are laws prohibiting it.

Just because there's a law prohibiting something doesn't make it not protected speech. The law could be unconstitutional.
posted by MoTLD at 8:33 AM on May 10, 2013


The first amendment isn't absolute. Public safety, national security and foreign policy have often limited speech. I wouldn't be confident that the court would be willing to overturn ITAR.

The people involved in Defcad are going to be lucky to get away with a slap on the wrist. Each time that file was downloaded could be an ITAR violation. Each violation can result in a fine of up to $1 million dollars and 20 years in federal prison. It has been reported that the files were downloaded 100,000 times. That's a juicy prize for a prosecutor.
posted by humanfont at 8:57 AM on May 10, 2013


Sounds reminiscent of MPAA and RIAA suing individual sharers for billions.

Does the punishment come even close to fitting the crime here?
posted by MoTLD at 9:11 AM on May 10, 2013


On reflection, yeah the potential punishment fits the crime. You can't just give your new untraceable plastic gun design to Al Qaeda, North Korea and Iran. You can't just hand over the specs and the cad files to Mexican drug cartels. This isn't like some guy downloading the JSTOR archive or sharing Game of Thrones on bit torrent. These guys developed, refined and then exported a disruptive weapons technology manufacturing process. Their intent was to make guns available to anyone who wanted them. They did so in clear violation of existing laws, international treaty obligations and UN sanctions. It seems to me that their behavior was reckless, outrageous, repugnant and dangerous to our public safety and national security. Throw the book at them.
posted by humanfont at 11:35 AM on May 10, 2013


Interesting additional note, from commenter morehumanthanhuman at the bb post about the takedown:

One of the files they ordered the take down of is an air gun sound suppressor designed by one of the RepRap core team(based in New Zealand!), and is still available on thingiverse: http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...
posted by MoTLD at 11:35 AM on May 10, 2013


humanfont, you would support a $100 billion fine and 2 million years in federal prison?

If you don't want to liken it to JSTOR "theft" or copyright infringement, how about PGP, Netscape, or professor Bernstein's encryption coursework, all of which fell under the same law as this gun design. Should Phil Zimmerman be in jail right now for exporting a disruptive cryptography technology to Al Quaeda, NK, Iran, or a drug cartel?

No doubt encryption technology has cost lives, as well as saved them. Much like weapons.
posted by MoTLD at 11:57 AM on May 10, 2013


Just because there's a law prohibiting something doesn't make it not protected speech.

Um, actually, it does. By definition. 'Protected speech' means speech that is protected. By law.

The law could be unconstitutional.


It hasn't been ruled to be. Until it is, the speech to which you refer is not protected.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:11 PM on May 10, 2013


I have repeatedly asked for the pro-gun people on this thread to provide statistical evidence that (a) guns reduce my chance that I or a family member will be injured or killed by criminals and (b) that the purported protection guns provide outweighs the odds that my owning a gun will result in injury or death to a family member due to accident/suicide/domestic violence. Evidence that (a) and (b) are true in your town would convince me that it is rational for you to own a gun for self defense.

Upthread, many anti-gun people have provided statistics about accident and suicide rates. In the absence of evidence to the contrary I must provisionally conclude that (b) is false. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise by pro-gun hard data.

Day 3. Still waiting.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:56 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Get comfortable, you could have a long wait...

I believe the burden of proof is on the gun control folks, considering that gun ownership is a right guaranteed by the US constitution.

I challenge all you freedom-of-speech apologists to provide proof that said freedom does more good than harm. Until such time, I will lobby loudly for insurance and registration requirements on blog commenters.
posted by MoTLD at 4:16 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Feds tried to put Phil Zimmerman away, but they couldn't get enough evidence to charge him in exporting PGP. PGP was available on non-US servers for non-US based users. Zimmerman was careful though to be clear of any connection to it getting there. Eventually regulations changed and the investigation was dropped. In my opinion there is also a big difference between a cryptography program and a gun design. No one walks into an elementary school and starts mowing down first graders with bunch of PGP keys.
posted by humanfont at 4:29 PM on May 10, 2013


Just because there's a law prohibiting something doesn't make it not protected speech.

Um, actually, it does. By definition. 'Protected speech' means speech that is protected. By law.


I was making a play on "just because something's illegal doesn't make it wrong," but if you want to argue it literally...

I thought protected speech, by definition, meant speech that is protected by the constitution.

Other law "unprotects" certain speech by setting aside exemptions from that constitutional protection, but "protected speech" is really just the default condition for any speech not so criminalized. And the bar for criminalizing any part of a constitutionally protected right is, as it should be, rather high.

Where it gets interesting is when a law is patently unconstitutional but an applicable case hasn't yet made it to the SCOTUS.
posted by MoTLD at 4:38 PM on May 10, 2013


No one walks into an elementary school and starts mowing down first graders with bunch of PGP keys.

No one walks into an elementary school and starts mowing down first graders with bunch of CAD files, either.

However, abstracted one layer back, terrorists plan coordinated attacks using PGP keys.
posted by MoTLD at 4:53 PM on May 10, 2013


I believe the burden of proof is on the gun control folks, considering that gun ownership is a right guaranteed by the US constitution.

We've provided it [1] [2] [3]. Your turn!

(Not that I agree that the US constitution guarantees the right to individual gun ownership in the first place. But that's a whole other argument.)
posted by Drexen at 4:53 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Whoops: [2]).
posted by Drexen at 5:01 PM on May 10, 2013


To be completely honest, I'm tired and don't feel like debunking studies right now. I already did a bit of that above, and was less than charitably treated for my trouble. And anyway, for as long as one side can debunk studies, the other can keep finding more to throw around, because there are a lot of bad gun-related studies on both sides. And almost every one of them, again on both sides, is perverted and mis-interpreted by lay people and the media. Lies, damn lies, and statistics, indeed.

How's this instead...

The only statistic which matters to me is the overall rate of violence in the first world.

Sure, the US has something like double the murder/accident/suicide rate as other developed nations, depending on the source and/or manipulation of the statistics, but it is still a very safe place to live, as are all developed nations, gun control or no. So maybe guns are really just a very small part of a very big picture of civilization as a whole.

That being said, the US also has something like double the freedom of any other developed nation, IMO (more on this in a sec). The developing world, oddly enough, has a lot more freedom! We've already traded much liberty for security compared to the third world, and having personally seen the third world, I'm ok with that. If I want anarchy, I'll move somewhere where anarchy rules.

By the same token, if you want less freedom and you can't convince your fellow Americans to amend the constitution, you're gonna have to move, yourself. Chipping away at the bill of rights by fiat just isn't smart.

But back to the IMO part above. If you really want to do this statistically, you're going to need to objectively quantify not only the harms done by guns, but also the positive benefits, not of guns themselves, but of the freedom afforded by the whole bill of rights, because that's what your side is trying to invalidate.

Good luck with that.

Anyway, instead of continuing to talk past one another on the age-old gun debate, let's talk about how technology is about to make guns irrelevant, instead. Well, unless your hand is pinned to the wall and you can't press that button... ;)
posted by MoTLD at 5:39 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your assertion that Americans have double the freedom of other developed nations is not supported by observable data. Even the conservative Heratige Foundation has the US in tenth place.
posted by humanfont at 6:12 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be completely honest, I'm tired and don't feel like debunking studies right now.

Okay, then they'll go un-countered in this thread. Up to you.

How's this instead... maybe guns are really just a very small part of a very big picture of civilization as a whole.

Not small to the tens of thousands of people who are avoidably killed or injured by guns in the US every year. [1] [2]

That being said, the US also has something like double the freedom of any other developed nation, IMO (more on this in a sec)

I wouldn't be so sure. Despite the ambition of the US constitution, in the real world it has less social mobility [1], worse healthcare [1], less education [1], less freedom of the press [1], less political engagement [1] and therefore less empowerment, less freedom from violence and coercion [1], than many other countries -- I could name more, but these are all vital aspects of freedom in themeselves. I think the focus on paper rights over real-world rights is one reason for the US's problems.

By the same token, if you want less freedom and you can't convince your fellow Americans to amend the constitution, you're gonna have to move, yourself.

Only if you give up. Not that I'm of the American persuasion, myself.

Chipping away at the bill of rights by fiat just isn't smart.

Changing the US constitution to avoid problems or provide benefits that the founding fathers didn't anticipate is, itself, part of the constitution, and has been vital in preserving and extending freedom in the United States since its inception.

If you really want to do this statistically, you're going to need to objectively quantify not only the harms done by guns, but also the positive benefits, not of guns themselves, but of the freedom afforded by the whole bill of rights, because that's what your side is trying to invalidate.

If we want to 'do this statistically', we have to quantify the freedom afforded by the whole bill of rights? It's unquantifiable, except by the measures I cited above, which are damning.

And in any case, "the freedom afforded by the whole bill of rights" is not what we are trying to invalidate. We are trying to prevent the violence and misery caused either by a specific ill-conceived part of the bill of rights -- the 2nd amendment -- or a misinterpretation of that part.

Anyway, instead of continuing to talk past one another on the age-old gun debate, let's talk about how technology is about to make guns irrelevant, instead.

I'd call that even more off-topic than this more general debate already is. Especially since guns are not going to be 'irrelevant' as long as they exist and are used on people. The creation of new warfare technology doesn't make them irrelevant any more than cruise missiles did.
posted by Drexen at 7:03 PM on May 10, 2013


Addendum: if you want less freedom and you can't convince your fellow Americans..

Obviously, 'less freedom' is not what we're aiming for, except in the sense that the law reduces the 'freedom' to commit crime.
posted by Drexen at 7:13 PM on May 10, 2013


If we want to 'do this statistically', we have to quantify the freedom afforded by the whole bill of rights?

For the sake of argument, keep the constitution as it is. I'm not asking about what you are legally permitted to do under the American constitution, I'm asking whether owning a gun makes your family safer or less safe. That is a statistical question, and the answer may vary depending on how dangerous your neighborhood is.

It's legal to expose your kids to second hand smoke. It probably won't kill them, but there's a statistically significant chance that it could give them cancer, so it's a bad idea. I want to to see the data on both sides as to whether or not guns are like that.

I believe the burden of proof is on the gun control folks

They have met that challenge and provided data, repeatedly. (e.g.) The data we've seen from anti-gun people shows that guns are a significant risk to the health of families that own them. (accident/suicide/etc.) I don't think that's in dispute.

What I want to see from the pro-gun folks is data about the degree to which owning a gun protects you and your family from violence by criminals. If the protective factor of owning a gun is real and large it would justify owning a gun for self defense despite the real risk of fatal accidents. What's needed is data on the magnitude of the protective effect to get us to believe guns really make your family more safe.

It's embarrassing if only one side is backing their claims with hard data.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:33 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, doesn't the NRA have something, somewhere? If data supporting a large protective factor exists it can't be that hard to find.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:36 PM on May 10, 2013


Okay, Two Can Play That Game: Let's Nullify Kansas

Missouri Passes Gun Nullification Bill That Criminalizes Federal Law Enforcement
posted by homunculus at 8:42 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Gun Report: May 10, 2013
posted by homunculus at 8:43 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The creation of new warfare technology doesn't make them irrelevant any more than cruise missiles did.

The development of cruise missiles and military aircraft, resulting in things like the devastating bombing of London during WWII by German V-1s, did actually make artillery guns pretty irrelevant compared to their previous central importance in war. That's why our navies don't have dreadnoughts and super-dreadnoughts any more: because constructing larger and larger floating gun platforms became pointless if a teeny tiny ship armed with a few missiles or a few bombs dropped from crop dusters commandeered into military service could take them out.

In the same way, building enormous land-based artillery like the Schwerer Gustav that could fire seven-tonne shells or the Little David mortar became an obsolete strategy. (Whatever the history books say, I like to imagine that some Lloyd-Bridges-type generals named those guns after their penises.)

I agree that gun control advocates have made their case, it's just that there were societies that restricted who could possess a sword too: but once guns were commonplace that didn't really make much of a difference. I would totally sign petitions and support gun control laws and gun control candidates if they show up on my ballot but I'm thinking that if gun deaths may just get replaced with carnage resulting from everyone having a little Sorcerer's Apprentice or a hundred, effort might be better spent addressing the fundamental problems in our democracy and civil society that are why pro-gun interests have been able to rig so much of the game in their favor and establish political power that is so difficult to assail.

Because let's face it, the reason why gun control efforts get so reliably stymied is not actually because everyone in decision-making positions examines the arguments and evidence and selects the pro-gun position as the most rational option.

And/or we could spend effort bioengineering some kind of virulent microorganism that eats smokeless powder and other propellants and release it into the wild and thus settle the problem for good, as long as we're in a thread discussing sci-fi things becoming real.
posted by XMLicious at 9:29 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


why not instead address the reasons why people are suddenly deciding to mow down a bunch of other people
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:58 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, that's a good one too, and even more important if I'm correctly imagining that a wacko killer a few decades from now won't have to do all the work himself but will have a team of wacko killer robots to help out.

But the same problems and forces in our democracy that obstruct and undermine efforts towards gun control are pretty well connected, in both nature and methodology, to those that work against the establishment of adequate and freely-available mental health care, so there are several root problems in common with both ways you might try to deal with deaths and suffering from gun violence at a societal level. If we could reduce the influence of money in Washington or better yet make changes to our election process to remove some of the inherent problems that create a system where the stable state is for all political power to be put in the hands of just two political parties—who then are essentially the only ones you need to buy off and who end up with an immense entrenched network of tentacles and influence that invade all the orifices of society—perhaps we'd end up with gun control and mental healthcare services more in line with what our citizens want and need.
posted by XMLicious at 10:27 PM on May 10, 2013


Huh - I just thought of another facet: much is made of how difficult it is and how much knowledge it requires, and how long it takes when you're working at a cottage-industry level, to manufacture sarin and ricin and other chemical agents in secret, or the safety measures and acumen that are required to produce propellants of sufficient quality to use in firearms or other exposives as discussed above.

Maybe if as I envision a future appliance in some households will be a general purpose robot able to mix cocktails, as a normal function you'll be able to download the package of behaviors that would let it prepare the latest Pan-Galactic Lokoschlägerjito that's the latest rage. But from some darknet you can also get downloadables that let it make meth or ones for manufacturing black powder or ricin, perhaps along with code and recognition algorithms to let it or another household robot scavenge for the guano or castor beans so that there's no electronic paper trail of buying any of that stuff.

Written up by experts in programming the robot's behavior and ability to use tools like a mortar and pestle, and experts in chemical engineering to design the production process and write code to select alternatives and incorporate whatever household substances are on hand, with input from a botanist with computer vision expertise for recognizing the ornamental castor bean plants in all the parks... at some point in the future you'll just need the rooted household bot and the warez.

Or maybe it will be much simpler: search instructions to scavenge for an appropriate poisonous plant and a similar program to wander around and find cooking pots to stealthily drop it into.

Obviously we're a long way from where it would by anywhere near as straightforward as I've described in the narrative above and probably will not be possible with one general-purpose robot at first but would need humans performing some steps and multiple robots—maybe a way to collect castor beans would initially be adapted from something used on a farm—but anyways, this is another category of files that will eventually need to be interdicted along with the CAD files for the Liberator.

(Incidentally, for a great exposition of arms control being replaced instead by control of the design plans for weapons, in a far-off futuristic setting, may I suggest The Prefect by Alistair Reynolds.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:35 PM on May 10, 2013


The International Traffic In Arms Regularions. (ITAR) are a set of regulations designed to control the export of munitions and weapons from the US. It appears that Defense Distributed could be in significant legal trouble over their actions. Each violation of ITAR could result in a fine of $1 million dollars and 20 years in prison. ( 22 U.S.C. 2778(c) ).
Interesting. Unlike a lot of problematic laws, this law does require willful violation, it also requires that the president designates an item as a defense "item or service", presumably that wasn't the case until the state department told them to take it down.
[Citation needed] for data = speech.
See the cases about the export of Applied Cryptography. On the other hand you have things like the cases against DeCSS and the like, which applied to 'active' computer programs rather then algorithms in books. Blueprints would be much more like a book then a program, IMO. Of course what if it's a file that can feed directly into a 3D printer?

I certainly wouldn't want to test it, but a safe way to test it would for Defense Distributed to sue the government in order to get a ruling that their blueprints were protected speech.

They can also allow download by US citizens, not sure what kind of requirements they would need to have.
The first amendment isn't absolute. Public safety, national security and foreign policy have often limited speech.
When has "foreign policy" limited freedom of speech? I can't even think of any national security restrictions, other then the naming of spies (There are restrictions placed on government agents, but not normal citizens, that I know of) - Seriously where are examples of "foreign policy" limiting free speech?
On reflection, yeah the potential punishment fits the crime. You can't just give your new untraceable plastic gun design to Al Qaeda, North Korea and Iran.


*rolls eyes* This is Nancy Grace level fearmongering. Why would North Korea or Iran care? The guns might be useful for hijacking an airplane, I guess. But with this gun the bullets would show up on X-ray.
Their intent was to make guns available to anyone who wanted them. They did so in clear violation of existing laws, international treaty obligations and UN sanctions. It seems to me that their behavior was reckless, outrageous, repugnant and dangerous to our public safety and national security. Throw the book at them.
It's hardly 'clear'. Do you have any evidence that these blueprints had been designated by the government as defense related items or services subject to export controls? Until they're added to the list it's wouldn't be illegal under that law, as far as I can tell.
Um, actually, it does. By definition. 'Protected speech' means speech that is protected. By law.
Protected speech is speech that's protected by the first amendment of the constitution. It's still protected if a law is passed banning it, it means the law is invalid. When people say "protected speech" they mean speech protected by the constitution.
posted by delmoi at 1:12 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


why not instead address the reasons why people are suddenly deciding to mow down a bunch of other people

It's not that new in itself, though it's certainly interesting to speculate on why it's had such a resurgence now in America and elsewhere. I'd point to easy access to high-powered weaponry as one factor, in the same way that it encourages other forms of murder and suicide (and murder-suicide) -- see above cites. Certainly it does a lot to enable to increased lethality of modern rampages.
posted by Drexen at 6:39 AM on May 11, 2013


There's also the change in media coverage of such events which provides a sense of importance, power and recognition to would-be mass-killers.
posted by Drexen at 7:56 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The US Munitions List already covers these items:

Catagory 1 (a) adds: Nonautomatic and semi-automatic firearms to caliber .50 inclusive (12.7 mm). 1 (h) expands it to "Technical data (as defined in §120.10 of this subchapter) and defense services (as de- fined in § 120.9 of this subchapter) directly re- lated to the defense articles enumerated in paragraphs (a) through (h) of this category."
posted by humanfont at 11:28 AM on May 11, 2013


Interesting. 120.09 refers to
"The furnishing to foreign persons of any technical data controlled under this subchapter (see § 120.10), whether in the United States or abroad"
The definition (120.10) includes :
(1) Information, other than software
as defined in § 120.10(a)(4), which is re-quired for the design, development, production, manufacture, assembly, op-eration, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of defense articles. This includes information in the form of blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions or documentation.
Which would obviously cover it, except there's an exception:
120.10 (5) This definition does not include information concerning general sci- entific, mathematical or engineering principles commonly taught in schools, colleges and universities or informa-tion in the public domain as defined in § 120.11. It also does not include basic marketing information on function or purpose or general system descriptions of defense articles.

120.11 Public domain.
(a) Public domain means information which is published and which is gen- erally accessible or available to the public:
(1) Through sales at newsstands and bookstores;
(2) Through subscriptions which are available without restriction to any individual who desires to obtain or purchase the published information;
(3) Through second class mailing privileges granted by the U.S. Govern-ment;
(4) At libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain docu-ments;
(5) Through patents available at any patent office;
(6) Through unlimited distribution at a conference, meeting, seminar, trade show or exhibition, generally accessible to the public, in the United States;
So the question is whether or not releasing the documents on the internet legally qualified as a either a "subscription available without restriction", "library open to the public" or "unlimited distribution at a conference".

Furthermore, you actually can buy physical copies of the plans at newstands or bookstores, which means exception 120.11(a)(1) would be in place here.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on May 11, 2013


Pirate Bay Takes Over Distribution of Censored 3D Printable Gun
posted by homunculus at 3:14 PM on May 11, 2013


I'm thinking that if gun deaths may just get replaced with carnage resulting from everyone having a little Sorcerer's Apprentice or a hundred

Banning guns doesn't reduce violence because criminals switch to other weapons? That's a theory which you could try to support with evidence. Great Britain could be a source of data for you. Banning guns has resulted in more criminals using knives, sure, but did the ban affect the overall murder rate? Show me statistics that the overall murder/injury rate due to street crime is higher in Great Britain than it is in the US and your theory will have some plausibility. In the absence of evidence I consider your theory implausible.

It has now been four days that I've been asking for hard data from the pro-gun side that owning guns makes a family safer. Why are gun-control meFites the only ones providing evidence for their views?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:58 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great Britain could be a source of data

Or Australia: Gun Control Whoop-de-doo

Gun Control & Political Suicide

Australia & Gun Control's Aftermath
posted by homunculus at 5:11 PM on May 11, 2013


Banning guns doesn't reduce violence because criminals switch to other weapons?

No, that's not what I said, nor have I expressed opposition to banning guns. Checkmate and all that on your part: I have said that the evidence given for gun control should persuade any person rationally deciding the issue on the merits. I'm just pointing out that as far as what's "no longer sci-fi" there are things on the horizon besides widespread 3D printing of guns.
posted by XMLicious at 6:56 PM on May 11, 2013


The problem with the whole 'gun control stats' thing is that the side that thinks guns = safety also seems to not believe in global warming, evolution, etc. People who don't particularly have a strong reputation when it comes to statistical analysis. But the trick is if you come up with enough bogus stuff people can always say things like "oh yeah? Well this study proves the opposite."
posted by delmoi at 7:05 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is my understanding that technical data can't be placed in the public domain without ITAR clearance. The IEEE and other publications seem to have pretty clear rules about ensuring their US authors receive clearance before publishing. As noted in this FAQ from a Law firm specializing in ITAR.
You can't put something in the public domain by offering it to Jane's or Popular Mechanics, and it's not public domain if the information, data, or know-how became known through an unauthorized release. It's not in the public domain if you are using the information, technical data and/or know-how for a purpose controlled by the ITAR. Patents are public domain, books with ISBN numbers are public domain, other types of information or modifications may not be. It's up to the individual company and its personnel to know its products and make a well reasoned decision.

posted by humanfont at 7:43 PM on May 11, 2013


It is my understanding that technical data can't be placed in the public domain without ITAR clearance.
Understanding based on what? The plain text of the law says that something is public domain if it's available "(1) Through sales at newsstands and bookstores;" or "(2) Through subscriptions which are available without restriction to any individual who desires to obtain or purchase the published information; " Both of which are true.

There is also "(7) Through public release (i.e., un-limited distribution) in any form (e.g., not necessarily in published form) after approval by the cognizant U.S. govern-ment department or agency (see also § 125.4(b)(13) of this subchapter);"

But that's just one of the 8 possible things that indicate something being in the public domain, not something that needs to be true in addition to the other 7, as far as I can tell.

Oh well, I'm not their lawyer. I just don't think it's that clear cut.
posted by delmoi at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2013


My understanding is based on the IEEE publication guidelines, the comment I quoted from a website run by lawyers with an ITAR practice. There is also this documentation provided by the Department of Defense's Office of Security Review.
The Office of Security Review is the sole DoD organization specifically mentioned in the ITAR authorized to approve the use of the exemption mentioned in ITAR 125.4(b)(13) to approve the public release of technical data on defense articles...
ITAR defines a defense article as anything on the munitions list (121.1). Defcad is going to be extremely lucky to avoid major jail time.
posted by humanfont at 9:43 PM on May 11, 2013


It has now been four days that I've been asking for hard data from the pro-gun side that owning guns makes a family safer.

Day 5.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:01 AM on May 12, 2013


Day 5.

Since you've been waiting so patiently...

Who has the most guns? Wikipedia says:

Guns per 100 residents, US: 88.8
Guns per 100 residents, average of other developed nations: 16.2

Difference factor: 5.5

Color me shocked.

Now, let's see if the US has 5.5 times the carnage. Also from Wikipedia:

Intentional deaths per 100,000 people per year, US: 16.8
Intentional deaths per 100,000 people per year, others: 15.5

Difference factor: 1.08

Huh.
posted by MoTLD at 12:05 PM on May 12, 2013


Thanks MoTLD. I'm well aware that there's lots of evidence that guns make the people who own them less safe.

My making a good-faith request for pro-gun information is me giving anti-gun-control people enough rope to hang themselves. If they've got evidence, any evidence at all, we could have a debate over that. If they can't come up with anything, they have proven to themselves that their position is irrational.

Day 5 continues.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:16 PM on May 12, 2013


*For developed countries, I rather arbitrarily used the 47 countries with an HDI in the top quartile, minus the ones which had no gun ownership and/or intentional death statistics in Wikipedia. That left Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Iceland, Denmark, Israel, Belgium, Austria, Singapore, France, Finland, Slovenia, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, United Kingdom (England and Wales for ownership rate), Czech Republic, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Barbados, Poland, Chile, Lithuania, Portugal, Latvia ,Argentina ,Seychelles, and Croatia.

Oh, and before you say "But, but, the US isn't representative, all those guns are in just a few houses...'

Almost half of US housholds have guns, and the rate is rising even as crime declines.

Raw, comma delimited data follows in case you'd like to check my math. Feel free to break it down by country and see if you can spot a pattern between gun ownership rates and intentional deaths, if you feel like it, and use median instead of mean if it makes you happy, but I'm done mathing for another 5 days, at least.

In any case, you're not going to show a proportional increase in death and destruction in heavily armed civilized societies, so please find another bogeyman.

country name (from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Developed_country&oldid=554731569),guns per hundred residents (from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country&oldid=554620126),intentional deaths per hundred thousand residents (from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_countries_by_intentional_death_rate&oldid=552687771),(homicides),(suicides)
Norway,31.3,12.5,0.6,11.9
Australia,15,10.7,1,9.7
United States,88.8,16.8,4.8,12.0
Netherlands,3.9,9.6,1.1,8.5
Germany,30.3,10.7,0.8,9.9
New Zealand,22.6,14.1,0.9,13.2
Ireland,8.6,13,1.2,11.8
Sweden,31.6,12.9,1,11.9
Switzerland,45.7,11.8,0.7,11.1
Japan,0.6,22.1,0.4,21.7
Canada,30.8,13.1,1.6,11.5
South Korea,1.1,34.3,2.6,31.7
Hong Kong,unavailable,,,
Iceland,30.3,11.6,0.3,11.3
Denmark,12,12.2,0.9,11.3
Israel,7.3,7.9,2.1,5.8
Belgium,17.2,55.2,1.7,53.5
Austria,30.4,13.4,0.6,12.8
Singapore,0.5,7.3,0.3,7.07
France,31.2,16.1,1.1,15.0
Finland,45.3,19,2.2,16.8
Slovenia,13.5,22.5,0.7,21.8
Spain,10.4,8.4,0.8,7.6
Liechtenstein,unavailable,,,
Italy,11.9,7.2,0.9,6.3
Luxembourg,15.3,10.3,2.5,7.8
United Kingdom (England and Wales for ownership rate),6.2,13,1.2,11.8
Czech Republic,16.3,14.5,1.7,12.8
Greece,22.5,5,1.5,3.5
Brunei,1.4,unavailable,,
Cyprus,36.1,5.3,1.7,3.6
Malta,11.9,4.4,1.0,3.4
Andorra,unavailable,,,
Estonia,9.2,23.3,5.2,18.1
Slovakia,8.3,11.4,1.5,9.9
Qatar,19.2,unavailable,,
Hungary,5.5,23,1.3,21.7
Barbados,7.8,14.8,11.3,3.5
Poland,1.3,16.5,1.1,15.4
Chile,10.7,14.4,3.2,11.2
Lithuania,0.7,38.2,6.6,31.6
United Arab Emirates,22.1,unavailable,,
Portugal,8.5,12.7,1.2,11.5
Latvia,19,20.6,3.1,17.5
Argentina,10.2,13.5,5.8,7.7
Seychelles,5.4,12.9,8.3,4.6
Croatia,21.7,21.1,1.4,19.7

PS, if you're going to bring up accidental deaths, check out Table 18 of the CDC 2010 mortality data, the first stats I found that included unintentional firearms deaths instead of just all firearms deaths. Apples to apples, right?

A few highlights, each from their respective unintentional listing in the stats:

Transportation: 37,236
Poison: 33,041
Gravity: 26,009
Other or unspecified: 8,106
Air, lack thereof: 6,165
Water: 3,782
Fire: 2,782
Guns: 606
posted by MoTLD at 12:22 PM on May 12, 2013


On Mother’s Day, Sandy Hook Moms Remind Americans Of The Danger Guns Pose To Children
posted by homunculus at 12:27 PM on May 12, 2013


Um, justsomebody, in case you didn't actually look at the numbers I just worked my fingers off to give you, let me spell it out in small words:

The US has 5.5 times more guns. That's a lot.
The US has 1.08 times more killings. That's not a lot.

We don't appear to be appreciably less safe, despite being appreciably more armed.
posted by MoTLD at 12:40 PM on May 12, 2013


Thanks MoTLD. I need a few minutes to run the numbers through a spreadsheet.

This is a more substantive discussion than the one we were previously having.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:42 PM on May 12, 2013


Feel free to break it down by country and see if you can spot a pattern between gun ownership rates and intentional deaths

I correlated the columns (a more reliable technique than just looking for means). In the whole set of countries you listed there is not a statistically significant correlation between gun ownership and both murder and suicide. That's interesting and surprising.

If you take out Latin America and Eastern Europe the picture is quite different. There is still no significant correlation between murder and suicide, but there is a significant correlation between gun ownership and murder rates. (p>>0.05) In industrialized democracies, more guns = more murders. That's what the numbers you've given me say. There is a proportional relationship for murder, though not for suicide.

My stats skills are a bit rusty. You might want to run the numbers through a spreadsheet and check the correlations for yourself.

What surprises me about these numbers is that they give some reason to think that if I lived in Latvia it might make my family safer if I bought a gun. We've insufficient data to be sure (we'd need intra-country statistics comparing families with/without guns for that) but the idea that owning a gun for self-defence might be rational if I was Latvian is not something I believed yesterday. It's an interesting finding. I'm also surprised that gun ownership rates and overall suicide rates aren't strongly correlated.

However, your data also shows that loose gun ownership laws are one reason why the American murder rate is high. That I find less surprising.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:33 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your stats skills are probably better than mine.

However...

If you take out Latin America and Eastern Europe the picture is quite different. [...] In industrialized democracies, more guns = more murders.

I don't buy your premise that Latin American and Eastern European countries in the top quartile for HDI aren't industrialized, and I'm not sure what being a democracy has to do with any of it.

That's why I just used that arbitrary definition of "developed nations" so I couldn't be accused of cherry-picking.

However, your data also shows that loose gun ownership laws are one reason why the American murder rate is high.

I don't recall including any statistics for gun ownership laws in the spreadsheet. We're gonna need a bigger dataset... ;)

Also, correlation /= causation, and all that. From my point of view, freedom in general explains both the higher murder rate and the lower suicide rate. And I'm ok with that.
posted by MoTLD at 1:48 PM on May 12, 2013


I don't recall including any statistics for gun ownership laws in the spreadsheet.

Fair enough. To be precise, it's gun ownership rates on which we have data.

and the lower suicide rate.


There has been a misunderstanding. Higher gun ownership rates do not reduce the overall nationwide suicide rate. The numbers you gave suggest that there is no strong connection either way. (although on a household-by-household basis the story is different)

We're gonna need a bigger dataset... ;)

What about my right to own a shark?

From my point of view, freedom in general explains...the higher murder rate...And I'm ok with that.

I'm Canadian. Moderate restrictions on my ability to own a gun have not affected my other freedoms and I'm less likely to get murdered. That's good. However, my opportunities to murder other people have been severely curtailed. That's a freedom I'm willing to give up. Reluctantly.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:13 PM on May 12, 2013


If you take out Latin America and Eastern Europe the picture is quite different.

That could be charitably described as arbitrary. What happens when we keep them in?

I don't even particularly care one way or another about guns, I just don't see the point of editing the top quartile like that.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:34 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


There has been a misunderstanding. Higher gun ownership rates do not reduce the overall nationwide suicide rate.

Sorry if I gave the impression that I believed that to be true; I do not.

I only correlate lower suicide rates with more freedom, and without any supporting data, to boot. I even claim causation, but that's my opinion and nothing more.

What about my right to own a shark?

Well played, good sir. Well played.
posted by MoTLD at 2:46 PM on May 12, 2013


Huh. It didn't strike me as arbitrary. Countries that are relatively rich and have a long history of stable democratic government are socioculturally different than countries that aren't and don't, no? Don't people often group so-called "Western democracies" together?

What happens when we keep them in?

The guns/murder correlation goes away. That's why I said that were I Latvian I could imagine myself buying a gun.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:48 PM on May 12, 2013


Don't people often group so-called "Western democracies" together?

To be honest, this is the first I've seen such lumping in a gun argument. I'm much more used to people just talking about developed/industrialized nations, or to people just comparing all the countries to one another.

The distinction between Western democracies and the rest of the world is much more arbitrary than it first appears, especially if you're shooting for wealth and political stability. Why should Spain and Portugal, which were fascist dictatorships until the 70s, be considered more similar to the US than Slovenia, which had been part of a Third Way country until the 90s, and is now one of the safest countries on the planet? Why should we consider Germany to be Western Europe, when half of it had been an oppressively Communist Warsaw Pact country until the 90s? Or, should we consider Germany twice - once in Eastern Europe, once in Western Europe?

What's more, first you had eliminated Latin America and so-called Eastern Europe under the aegis of only comparing Western democracies, but then you started referring to the remainder as "industrialized democracies." The conflation of "Western democracy" and "industrialized democracy" does not parse well - it comes off as very confused, actually. In what sense is, say, the Czech Republic not an industrialized democracy?
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:32 PM on May 12, 2013


Speak of the devil:

California State Senator Wants 3D Printer Regulated. "Regulation" is a nebulous thing that could range from prohibition to stopping defective printers from exploding, but he specifically wants background checks, legally required serial numbers and registration.
posted by dragoon at 3:49 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why should we consider Germany to be Western Europe, when half of it had been an oppressively Communist Warsaw Pact country until the 90s?

Sorry, 1989, even though the GDR technically ended in 1990.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:05 PM on May 12, 2013


Sticherbeast, you have MoTLD's data in your hands. With a few minutes research you could add countries he overlooked, or gather data on other variables (police corruption, perhaps). Pick whatever set of countries you like, run the numbers through a spreadsheet and see what correlations you get.

The nice thing about actually having a data set to argue over is that if you're worried about me being biased you can do the math for yourself. I'd be interested in the results.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:02 PM on May 12, 2013


Here's my take on MoTLD's data (I'm not a statistician either). It doesn't show that guns don't increase murders and suicides within a country: it only shows that the number of guns is not the sole factor that determines the number of murders and suicides across different countries. In other words, the data doesn't really address the question at hand in either direction.

It's telling that the data demonstrates 'more guns slightly decreases suicide' -- which you disclaim, yourself -- just as strongly as it demonstrates that 'more guns doesn't equal more death' . That is, not strongly at all.

It is still just as much the case that guns make you less safe, not more safe.
posted by Drexen at 10:31 AM on May 13, 2013


3D printed guns are going to create big legal precedents: A test case between Cody Wilson and the US government could have implications for regulation of the internet
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other words, if you reduce the number of guns, you still reduce the number of deaths. But that doesn't stop the death rate being affected by other factors within the country.

Or to put it another way, a country's death rate can be affected by many things. But that doesn't stop it being lessened by reducing the number of guns.
posted by Drexen at 10:41 AM on May 13, 2013


it only shows that the number of guns is not the sole factor that determines the number of murders and suicides across different countries.

Well put, thanks.

It is still just as much the case that guns make you less safe, not more safe.

Simply linking to a bunch of studies, or worse yet, summaries of studies, and then claiming they say what you think they say is lazy. Has anyone here even read them critically, or are y'all just regurgitating links?

I already did the work of actually reading some of what's linked farther up, and my rebuttal in the final two paragraphs here was ignored, so I did some more work and brought to the table some real data we can all argue fairly over.

So, if this is something that really matters to you, show how much you care by actually analyzing the studies and statistics you link to, and explain to us exactly why they say what you claim they say.

If I have to do it for you, I won't be gentle.
posted by MoTLD at 12:33 PM on May 13, 2013


Nah, I think the ones I linked to speak for themselves. I agree with the summaries there, which explain the meaning of the linked studies, so there's no point in me regurgitating them. But if you'd like to rip into them, go ahead.
posted by Drexen at 12:59 PM on May 13, 2013


Nah, I think the ones I linked to speak for themselves

If the studies speak for themselves, link to the studies so we can apply our own critical analysis. I dare say we here at MeFi are probably better equipped to do that than the news media you're trusting to do it for us.

Better yet, do it yourself! Is it so much to ask that you do a little more work than a bit of googling to justify denying me a right you personally don't feel like exercising?

I agree with the summaries there, which explain the meaning of the linked studies

Because you like what the summaries tell you the studies say, why bother looking into the details? That's just an echo chamber, and IMO it indicates laziness or an unwillingness to risk challenging your beliefs.

In either case, it's no way to win a debate except from the point of view of others in your echo chamber.
posted by MoTLD at 2:12 PM on May 13, 2013


It's more that this thread is getting old, we've both presented data and debated each other's arguments, and ultimately it's down to whoever read/is reading/will read it to decide which is more convincing.

But what the heck, you've been a congenial opponent so I guess it's only fair I do a bit more legwork for the sake of completeness.

It'll have to wait until tomorrow, though, since it's a fair amount of work.
posted by Drexen at 3:17 PM on May 13, 2013


Thank you, Drexen, and take your time.
posted by MoTLD at 3:42 PM on May 13, 2013


Rachel Maddow: Public safety sacrificed in states capitulating to NRA
posted by homunculus at 11:21 PM on May 13, 2013


You know what, I started this, and then realised that it was still pretty minimally useful, for the reasons I described in the thread. The sources I linked to present themselves clearly and they are what they are. If you feel they're weak enough that you can disregard them, that's up to you. Thanks for the engaging debate.
posted by Drexen at 3:09 AM on May 16, 2013


The Conspiracy Theory About Obama Hoarding Ammo Is Causing Real Trouble
posted by homunculus at 2:48 PM on May 16, 2013


they are what they are

Indeed! :)
posted by MoTLD at 7:16 PM on May 16, 2013


In Tomorrow’s Wars, Battles Will Be Fought With a 3-D Printer
posted by homunculus at 12:46 AM on May 18, 2013


...the Wiki Weapon, because like Wikipedia it will also be used to settle bar bets.
posted by XMLicious at 10:39 PM on May 18, 2013


$25 Gun Created With Cheap 3D Printer Fires Nine Shots
posted by homunculus at 4:50 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Watch 3-D Printed Shotgun Slugs Blow Away Their Targets
posted by homunculus at 5:25 PM on May 22, 2013


3D Printers for Peace

An Interview With Dr. Joshua Pearce Of Printers For Peace
posted by homunculus at 5:36 PM on May 22, 2013


I Built This AK-47. It's Legal and Totally Untraceable. Forget 3-D printed guns. Inside a "build party" where anyone can make a rifle that no cop will ever know about.
posted by homunculus at 2:16 PM on May 23, 2013


Could California's New Bullet Coding Law Actually Curb Gun Violence?
posted by homunculus at 4:46 PM on May 25, 2013


Doctors save baby’s life with 3D-printed tracheal implant
In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine today, two doctors from the University of Michigan described how they saved an infant with a life-threatening respiratory disorder using a custom-designed 3D-printed device. Printed with bio-absorbable plastic, the device is holding the child's airway open and allowing him to breathe normally.
posted by XMLicious at 10:14 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lego Gun Incident Ends Better Than Pastry Gun Incident
posted by homunculus at 3:25 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Colbert Report: TrackingPoint Rifle

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Expert Panel Lays Out The Gun Facts The NRA Has Suppressed
posted by homunculus at 2:17 PM on June 6, 2013


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