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Thursday, January 31, 2013

3D Printing, Guns and Free Speech

The debate on the second amendment took an interesting turn recently.

The video below demonstrates a gun magazine created with what's known as a "3D Printer."

A "3D Printer" is a device that can create solid items from an electronic description.

In the case above a magazine for an "assault" rifle.  The description of the magazine is merely a collection of computer codes - typically from a standard CAD system like AutoCad.  You transmit the instructions to the printer, load in some plastic or metal, and in a few hours the object described by the CAD file is completed.

3D printing is a fairly new technology and still somewhat costly but all that will change as the advantages of manufacturing things locally begins to outweigh the cost and complexity of doing other ways, e.g., having something manufactured in China and shipped to the US.

Of course, volume manufacturing methods such as injection molding, will continue to dominate for high volume applications.

Soon people will be manufacturing complete guns with this technology.

And now we have a situation similar to the one involving "Steal this Book" by Abbie Hoffman.

From Wikipedia
When published in 1970 it was quite an exercise in first amendment rights because it described illegal activities.  It held descriptions of smoke bombs, Molotov cocktails, dirty nuclear bombs, pipe bombs, antidotes for tear gas, and any number of other interesting things.

The CAD descriptions of gun parts and components is really no different a first amendment activity than this book was.

When you think about this you have to consider things like Google "mapping" popular Grand Canyon trails (see this).

No doubt folks who would otherwise pay a private company to ride down the trail can now sit at home and go down the trail virtually.  Of course this will take away from the private companies business.

Isn't that stealing?

Or is it progress?

Time and again the ways we do things are up-ended by change - technical progress, e.g., 3D printers.  Abbie Hoffman opened an entire world of activity to my 8th-grade mind with his book.

There was "Captain Crunch" (John Draper) and his "phone phreaking" that allowed you to take control of telephone trunk lines - all garnered from public information.

The problem is that our founding father understood that controlling speech was paramount to controlling a population which is why the first amendment was so important to them (and why its the "first" amendment).

Time and again the US Supreme Court has sided with "free speech" over interests that try to use it to control us or what we do that speech or the information it contains.  Rest assured that if Abbie Hoffman was writing about dirty nuclear bombs in 1970 plenty of terrorists today already know about them.

A free society is always to some degree a dangerous society because there are fewer limits than you might find in a totalitarian state.

Which is why the second amendment exists as well.

To provide a mechanism for people to assure their own free speech.  Clearly a government interested in controlling speech can make laws or attempt to control people by any means it sees fit.  And if its subjects have no recourse, i.e., are unarmed, then the government will likely succeed.

Today we live in a world most likely never imagined by our forefathers.  Both in terms of technology such as the internet as well as in terms of government tyranny (consider the Nation Defense Authorization Act or NDAA in which sections 1021 and 1022 provide for "unlimited detainment" of those deemed to be a threat to national security).

Our forefathers considered that with freedom comes responsibility.

After all, to live in the 1700's you had to be responsible, i.e., organizing a means for you and your family to eat as there were no "supermarkets," or you died.

I believe that this notion of "responsibility" was not written explicitly into the US Constitution because it was an innate element of life, i.e., anyone who ignored these responsibilities simply died of hunger.

So implicitly there was "freedom of speech" with responsibility, i.e., not yelling fire in a crowded theater, not inciting a riot, and so on.

Similarly for the Second Amendment and all the rest.

But today this notion of responsibility is largely lost - at least on the population that expects the government to provide for it in some way - basically half of the people.

And the government, in turn, thinks that legislation is a replacement for responsibility.

The only problem is that no matter how clever the law a clever criminal or lawyer will find a way around it.

So the government, in order to control the people, creates every more byzantine laws to control ever finer details of behavior as a replacement for people not being responsible for themselves.

Tens of thousands of pages of regulations and laws that no one understands nor can abide by.

This is tyranny.

In order for the government to control its population the notion of a description of a gun will be attacked next, lest anyone build one.

(Meanwhile things like zip-guns - simple home-made devices that act as guns - are basic fodder for sophomore shop class...)

The image above was constructed by a 13 year old in the 1950's.  (Why didn't he kill anyone with it?  His parents would have killed him first for making it - but that's not longer allowed.)

Fortunately with today's educational system no one even knows what a zip gun is... so I guess we are all safe due to ignorance.

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