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Authorities Arrest Man Smuggling Weapons into Mexico, Including Assault Rifle Modified with 3D Printed Part

by • February 21, 2016 • No Comments

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Weapons seized of an Arizona man earlier this month included a partially 3D printed assault rifle. [Image: Customs and Border Protection]

The gun control debate in the United States has been an exhausting one, and it does not look to be going away anytime soon. In fact, it just keeps getting additional complex, and, like it or not, 3D printing has played a not-insignificant part in complicating the issues. 3D printed guns have been revealing up additional and additional often in the news, and they’re steadily getting additional sophisticated – and, it may follow, additional dangerous. Cody Wilson’s 3D printed Liberator handgun opened the floodgates in 2013, but the single-shot plastic pistol appears primitive now – Wilson himself has followed up with a promise to release files for a machine gun by this April, and others have leapt in with their own 3D printed gun creations, that include one for a revolver.

Fully 3D printable guns aren’t the just concern, yet – the innovation can in addition be utilized to modify existing weapons to make them additional dangerous. Earlier this month, US Customs and Border Protection officers arrested Julian Higuera, a US citizen of Phoenix, just preceding he crossed into Mexico with a truck full of guns and ammunition. One of those guns, the officers found, was a semi-automatic assault rifle adjusted to function as a fully automatic.

80% AR-15 lower receiver of Ghost Gunner

80% AR-15 lower receiver of Ghost Gunner

Higuera had swapped the lower receiver of the gun for a plastic, 3D printed part that allowed the weapon to fire fully instantly, spraying bullets for as long as the trigger is held down. It is illegal in the US to modify a weapon into a full automatic, but there’s no shortage of innovation that makes it effortless for anyone to do just that – that include Wilson’s Ghost Gunner, a CNC mill capable of printing the lower receiver of an AR-15, the type of semi-automatic that Higuera had adjusted. Whilst Higuera’s 3D printed receiver was created of plastic, the Ghost Gunner makes parts in metal, and not just makes it effortless to modify a weapon, but in addition to make it untraceable.

Therein lies a primary part of the controversy surrounding Wilson and his man proponents of 3D printed weaponry. Not just is it effortless for anyone to print their own guns, but it’s effortless to make them completely untraceable, that holds obvious appeal for smugglers such as Higuera. Whilst Wilson insists that his release of his open-source 3D printable gun files online is an issue of free speech, it’s not easy to ignore the fact that 3D printed guns and gun components are revealing up in the hands of criminals.

“The issue is not domestic free speech,” said a US Department of State Official in a new interview with Inverse. “It is of protecting U.S. national security by preventing unauthorized foreign access to U.S. defense articles and potentially sensitive defense making technologies that may be utilized by terrorists or other bad actors to injure Americans, that include our troops serving overseas.”

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Recent reports have surfaced of homecreated (although not 3D printed, yet) guns being utilized in violent attacks in the West Bank, and according to Brigadier-General Nitzan Nuriel, former head of Counter Terrorism to the Israeli Government, small-scale terrorists are becoming “interested” in 3D innovation. One of the many common arguments against gun control measures is that criminals can find ways to procure guns no matter what, and it can pretty be argued that terrorists, smugglers and other criminals can find ways to make their own guns no matter what, as well. Okay, 3D printing is not the just way to make and modify weapons, but it’s unquestionably turning out to be an effortless one.