Coupling the gun control debate with technology that could create DIY firearms — like the Wiki-Weapons project by Defense Distributed that is in the process of making a fully functional 3D printed gun design — comes discussion about the potential for regulation of 3D printed guns and gun parts.

But one of the early engineers in the world of 3D printing has suggested printed guns be left out of regulatory discussions and gun powder be the focus instead. Hod Lipson with Cornell University, co-author of “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing,” told Wired’s Danger Room gun powder could be a “good target for regulation.”

3D Printing Expert Suggests Regulating Gun Powder Instead of Printed Guns

This image shows Defense Distributed’s 3D printed magazine. (Photo: Defense Distributed’s blog)

In December, a congressman put out a call for a renewed plastic gun ban. Around the same time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposed gun regulations that would ban high-capacity magazines and AR-15s. Defense Distributed though has shown that both of these items can be made with a 3D printer, at least in part.

Here’s Defense Distributed’s printed magazine:

This video shows how Defense Distributed created a 3D printed lower of a gun:

Where such restrictions become difficult, as Lipson pointed out to the Washington Post, is how “to enforce in a world where anybody can make anything.”

Travis Lerol, a 30-year-old software engineer living in Maryland, too has used 3D printer to create plastic gun components and told the Washington Post, “There’s really no one controlling what you do in your own home.”

And with the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches that would violate what is consider the reasonable expectation of privacy, enforcing such a ban for products would be difficult.

Lipson calls up the potential for the manufacturers of 3D printers to ban the printing of certain shapes, but he noted that some people who are tech savvy enough could build their own such printer to skirt around such a restriction.

This brings Lipson to regulations on gun powder instead.

“Perhaps the only way forward, if we choose to try and control this, is to control the gunpowder — the explosives — and not the actual device,” Lipson told Wired. He called it the “unifying material everybody would need, and it would be a good target for regulation if people choose to regulate it.”

Wired continued that Lipson is not advocating for control one way or another to prevent the weapons from getting into criminals hands.

“Criminals have other channels to get guns,” he said to Wired.

He’s more concerned with the danger 3D printed guns could pose to hobbyists given that the material composing the firearm could melt or other malfunctions are possible.

“If you make one and got it in the wrong temperature or was shoddy in any way, it’s actually dangerous to fire,” Lipson told Wired.

Let us know what you think of regulating 3D printed guns and gun powder by taking our poll.

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