Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Much ado about plastic.

Evidently, the "printable gun" bogeyman still has the ability to scare people (and increase ratings) because there's little sign that the scaremongers will let it go away before they have to. In fact it's acquired a cute new name:  Wikiweapons.  It has a certain ring to it and the notion that we can push a button and some advanced weapons system will pop out of a cheap printer like popcorn from your microwave and that will be so undetectable that you and it can waltz right on to an airplane undetected, is more deliciously scary than Global Warming or Zombies or designer viruses.

Looking at the plastic firearm CNN tells us was just acquired by the V&A museum in London for their design collection, one has to have some doubts about undetectability.  Having been stopped and searched at Miami International two years ago because the detection equipment saw an aspirin tablet in my pants pocket, this toaster sized thing isn't likely to go unnoticed and is way too big to fit into your pocket.  Of course the ammunition won't get past even the crudest metal detectors.  I should point out that plastic daggers are readily available right now. They generally do get detected. They generally aren't used in crimes.

If anything, this is a perfect illustration of people's tendency to  reach a snap decision on the limited information presented without asking how complete a picture they've been given,  When you want to scare the public, it's best to keep the unknown threat as vague and inaccurate as possible and to use only the data that support your gambit.  Few people will do the work, many won't have enough facts and those facts that may arise can be disposed of by citing the "gun culture" as cause for disbelief.

When the printable gun hoopla hit the press last year, it featured stories about how one could print a marginally useful receiver for popular semi-automatic weapons and with no serial numbers. That certainly looms less alarmingly when you learn you can buy a metal one that needs only a cheap hand drill to finish (and works vastly better) for less than 30 bucks from any number of sporting goods catalogs. In fact you can buy kits and plans for the whole Kalashnikov shebang. And of course it is already illegal to possess  firearms with missing or obliterated serial numbers,  so we really don't need to start passing more laws to make the illegal 'illegaler'  But the question we should be asking here is:  With guns readily available over and under the table, why obsess about the threat of "Wikiweapons" 

It doesn't take a lot of skill to make a simple handgun using something like a Unimat, a small combination drill press, lathe and milling machine. and those things are far cheaper than 3D printers. Even if you make it out of brass or soft steel, it will be a better, more reliable and longer lasting weapon than your hot off the press Delrin Derringer. I can make a plastic gun the old fashioned way too and far more cheaply -- and yet we don't seem to see such things used in crimes, now do we? And more importantly, plans, instructions, parts, kits and blueprints  are available on line to make your  own AK or M14 or M4 civilian semi-auto  or make the one you buy at Wal-Mart into a fully automatic machine gun.  

Pump up the panic! Play down the facts.  Look, isn't the real problem that underage and demented people can buy guns already?  If I can walk into one of several gun shops large and small around here and buy ten civilian AK-47 rifles, file off the serial numbers, convert them to full automatic and all for a tenth of what I can buy a printer for, than I think panic about plastic is unwarranted.

As I said above, blueprints for guns are available everywhere and on-line. Yes, although it's easier to build a simple firearm, legal or not, from metal, cheaper to use tools you can buy for a few hundred bucks than to make "wikiweapons,"  It is  the most simple thing of all just to buy, borrow or steal one already made! 

So I ask you why we are banning the software if we have freedom of the press and speech?  Why is Cody Wilson one of the "15 most dangerous men in the world" and why, if it is legal and easy to obtain the blueprints for nuclear weapons is it so horribly wrong just  to look at a blueprint for a clumsy and nearly useless version of something already legally available?  Because fear sells and fear of the unknown sells best.

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