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Click. Print. Gun.

A man in Japan was sentenced to two years in prison for manufacturing two guns with a 3-D printer. In addition to printing the two guns for himself, the 28-year-old Yoshitomo Imura also released his design data, which is needed to print a gun on a 3-D printer, on the internet. While gun control laws in Japan are far more restrictive than the gun control laws in the United States (it is illegal in Japan to possess or manufacture a gun) Imura’s sentencing makes him the first person in the world to receive a jail sentence for manufacturing a firearm on a 3-D printer.

Although Imura was the first person to be disciplined for making guns on a 3-D printer, many people before Imura have created weapons on 3-D printers. The first 3-D printed gun, according to Forbes, was created over a year ago by the company, Defense Distributed (VICE even made a documentary on the subject). After producing its first 3-D printed gun, Defense Distributed told Forbes that it planned to test the weapon and then release the blueprints online for public access.

For use at home, one could use a 3-D printer to print literally anything within reason. For example, you could print a new battery cover for the back of your remote control, an cell phone case, holiday decor, a life-size statue of yourself – pretty much anything you can think of (even a car). Unfortunately, there are going to be people who use such a convenient and advanced piece of technology for other purposes, such as building weapons or other dangerous instrumentalities. 3-D printing creates an additional avenue for individuals to obtain unlicensed, unregulated, unaccounted for and easily disposable weapons, and that is a very scary thought.

What Now?

While parents think that their children are in their bedrooms playing computer games or checking out facebook, if they have a 3-D printer, they could be building a gun with the click of a button. Cody Wilson, who runs the website Defense Distributed is at the forefront of making 3D printable guns legal and accessible. “We will have the reality of a weapons system that can be printed out from your desk. Anywhere there is a computer, there is a weapon.” Wilson said. Not only are there risks of guns getting into the wrong hands, but plastic printed guns can get through metal detectors and if need be, the plastic weapon can be melted down in a matter of minutes, gone forever. Again, it is horrifying.

The State Department is doing what they can to stop the online spreading and accessibility of 3-D printed gun design files, but it is becoming nearly impossible. Some people are already making parts for assault rifles on 3-D printers and the technology is still infantile. The most unnerving part about at home manufacturing of guns is that there are no regulations, no background checks and no waiting periods. Anyone can print one if they own a 3-D printer.

This means, not just more guns, but more unaccounted for guns.

The United States is an unusually violent country, compared to other OECD countries. The South region of the United States is by far the most violent region of the US. More guns (both legally and illegally obtained) in America is leading to more homicides. Implementing a household item that can allow just about anyone to create a gun in their living room will only increase the amount of guns per capita, and in effect, more gun related crimes.

As 3-D printers become more affordable, practical and accessible, they will become as common in the American household as your everyday ink printer. With increased access to 3-D printing will come increased safety concerns with 3-D printing. Gun control without 3-D printing is a complex and daunting issue in itself. Creating new laws for guns that are manufactured by 3-D printers will only add fuel to the debate.

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