Why the US has given 3D-printable guns the green light

Manufacturer hopes court ruling marks start of new age of home-made firearms

The printable Liberator will be available to download from 1 August
(Image credit: 2013 AFP)

The blueprints for 3D-printed guns will be freely available to download from the internet from next month, following a four-year legal battle.

Defense Distributed, the company behind the functional weapons, launched the downloadable blueprints online in 2013 but was forced by the US government to remove them just days later, Engadget reports.

The authorities argued that the blueprints, which had clocked up more than 100,000 downloads, violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulation, which governs what military materials can be exported.

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Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson then teamed up with the Second Amendment Foundation - a US body that defends the right to bear arms - to sue the country’s State Department over the clampdown, the BBC reports.

The US Justice Department has now ruled that plastic weapons can legally be accessed, used, discussed and reproduced by Americans. The US government will also “return $10,000 (£7,600) in State Department registration dues paid by Defense Distributed”, the broadcaster adds.

The ruling means the blueprints can be uploaded to the company’s Defcad.com website. From 1 August, users will be able to download a one-shot “Liberator” handgun, an AR-15 rifle and makeshift semi-automatic weapons, says the Daily Mail.

Providing users source the correct materials, the blueprints can be taken to a public or private 3D printer to produce the plastic firearms.

Gun control advocates are concerned that the home-made weapons cannot be tracked, says Vice.

There are also concerns that the plastic used to make the weapons does not match the quality of firearms produced by professional gunmakers, risking potentially dangerous malfunctions, the news site adds.

Meanwhile, Wilson told ArsTechnica that he hopes the ruling will see the birth of a community of CAD (computer-aided design) experts creating a host of printable weapons.

“If you build a critical mass of enough of a stock of these files and enough of a community, that is what you'll end up seeing,” he said.

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