Opinion: Open source culture could make gun control obsolete

Kent Vashaw

Kevin Griffin

Kent VashawAs the battle for gun control intensifies, new technology may make the debate obsolete.

Three-dimensional printing could, in the future, allow virtually anyone to bypass restrictions on guns or certain gun parts.

Three-dimensional printing, where 3-D objects are constructed by layering plastic, is a growing industry in America. The technology of 3-D printers is currently too clunky and expensive for small, private households, but they are commonly used for industrial purposes and by some hobbyists and enthusiasts.
And the technology is getting cheaper and more streamlined all the time.

President Barack Obama cited 3-D printing in his State of the Union speech Tuesday, Feb. 12, announcing that he would continue to fund research into this innovative technology. CNN reports that currently one research center, which is funded by joint public and private efforts, is in operation, and Obama plans to add three more.

FOX News reports that gun enthusiasts have begun to compile designs for the types of high capacity clips and pistol grips that might soon be illegal, as well as other gun parts, in the so-called “Wiki Weapons Project.” The files are distributed freely and allow these gun parts to be printed at any 3-D printer.

So by just downloading a file and having access to a 3-D printer, anyone can create an illegal weapon part with just the click of a button.  

Could access to these weapon plan files be prohibited?

If the Internet has shown us anything, it is that open source culture cannot be stopped.

Movies, video games and music are all easily obtained – illegally of course – online, despite lawmakers’ best attempts to prevent it. Information is easy to exchange, whether for good or for bad, and any attempt to restrict it will cause outrage, as we saw with the SOPA bill last year.

So what happens when the information being exchanged is no longer stolen intellectual property, but plans that could be used to create illegal weapons?

Although they don’t exist yet, it’s entirely plausible that entire guns could be printed. The government won’t be able to censor the distribution of those plans any more than it can stop teens from pirating the latest hit single.

This ultimately highlights the possible ineffectiveness of gun control in the future. While this doesn’t present a definitive argument to current policy, it does show that any utopian dreams of living in a gun-free, or even gun-regulated state are probably infeasible.

So don’t get your hopes up about gun control just yet.

Vashaw, a sophomore creative writing and mathematics major from Apex, is an opinion writer.