HP will restrict ghost gun printing on its printers
Back in July 2018 we covered the legalisation of 3D printed guns in the United-States. 3D printed gun files appeared as early as 2013. The technology initiated a long legal battle, finally won by Cody Wilson the creator of the first weapon, in 2018. As simple as downloading a file and sending it to a 3D printer, special action had to be taken by the US State Department in 2013 to force the first 3D printing gun file to be removed. More than 100,000 people had downloaded it in less than 24 hours.
By allowing Cody Wilson to publish his 3D gun files on the Internet, a new public debate was initiated. Namely, a debate on homemade weapons. 3D printed weapons are very difficult to detect in the United-States and in the world. In most cases, when these files are downloaded, no serial number is assigned to the 3D printed guns, although a legal requirement.
Guns remain a divisive issue in the US. In addition, matters are made worse as most of the firearms readily available on the Internet are printed in plastic. This makes them undetectable by metal detectors. As a result, they have earned the designation of “ghost gun”.
HP has recently declared that they are against ‘ghost guns’ being produced on their 3D printers. How they will regulate which files are printed on their machines is another question. They have introduced the idea of demanding a responsible use policy that precludes its printers from being used to manufacture guns unless the proper licenses are in place and the guns have traceable markings and screener-detectable materials.
Some have interpreted this as HP aiming to separate itself from the liability of having damages from one of its clients traced back to the use of their printers. It seems they will push their new policy by the use of contracts that specify these last points. This will not explicitly stop customers from printing weapons but should force them to conform with the law at least.
Currently, most 3D printed guns are not the most functional as they still require people to assemble the parts by hand. 3D plastic guns are far from being an efficient firearm. However, designs and materials are quickly improving and these limitations will soon be overcome.
It should be noted that it is possible to program a 3D printer to inhibit a specific file from being printed. However, it will only be a question of time before people learn how to trick the 3D printer. 3D printed firearms are a complicated issue with no definite answer as of yet.
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