Cody Wilson, 003½ with a plastic gun

It is not often we see innovation in a new light. We have seen innovations over time as people found something that was new, that was nice, and then they changed the world, they sometimes change it twice.

Some might have seen it, some might not. There is a ‘new’ novelty printer. This printer is different. It has the ability to print in 3D. It does so by printing plastic. As it prints layer by layer, it creates a 3D plastic model. I saw it in a novelty science store called ‘Professor Plums’ in Crows Nest (Sydney, Australia). As such I have seen small vases, holders and other small trinkets that seem simple, yet, when you consider that these are ‘printed’ objects, you would look again and think ‘How amazing!’.

A law student in Texas took that design to new level. Perhaps this man saw John Malkovic in the movie ‘in the line of fire‘, he put one and one together  and ended up with 15 ‘printed’ parts and that is how he made a plastic gun. You might think what nonsense it was; however, consider the second part of that equation as he added one part that was not printed. The bullet! Then he did what others stated was ‘Science Fiction’ and he fired the gun, making it a working success. The article is at “http://news.sky.com/story/1087396/controversial-3d-printed-gun-fires-test-shots”.

Innovation, an idea to break open the law and the most dangerous item you could ever consider, a gun that does not show up on metal detectors. No matter what he thinks in this regard, I am not attacking him for his convictions. Like him I believe that guns do not kill people. People kill people. The part he might or might not have considered is that the American Arms industry currently represents roughly $11B in 2012. This represents guns and ammo as far as I know, but now that revenue is in some serious peril. No matter how criminals get their guns, they do pay for it. Now, someone needs one 3D printer, plastic toner and the schematics. The result will be a collection of guns without serial numbers, without set bullet striations. I reckon that forensic evidence will never be the same again once these guns hit the streets in numbers. Consider in addition that plastic melts. Dump the used gun in an open fire and the option ‘Beyond reasonable doubt’ will now happily take a gander into never never land.

In the Sky News article it stated New York congressman Steve Israel view “Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser.

Congressman Israel is correct. This is a new day. When Jeff Maguire wrote his idea “In the line of fire” in 1993 he might never have considered that his idea could become a reality. Yesterday the news showed him that reality caught up with his imagination!

So should we blame Jeff Maguire? Seems hardly fair! Should we blame Cody Wilson? I think that his idea to put this on-line would be irresponsible, yet, proving that the idea worked was all it took. It now only takes a slightly clever person to re-engineer this concept. So perhaps we should consider that there is no blame. Perhaps in the US gun control the way they tried to pull off their political games in the last year is now clearly shown to be an utter mistake.

That is how I saw this then; this is how I see it now even more. The clarity remains that guns do not kill people, other people do that!

I am not turning this into a gun debate. This is the issue when technology and innovation catches up with us faster and faster. The fact that new and additional laws are needed gives us two issues.

1. More loopholes. Whatever changes or additions are made, once they introduce a new material, a new way to make 3D models, we will see more changes and more legal issues.

2. “Beyond reasonable doubt”. The plastic gun can too easily be transformed. How long until we buy a small glass container with an Isopropyl Bromide (or variant)? That would be one way to melt plastic. Soon thereafter the prosecution has nothing left. Nothing to work with and due process stops as the gun that was used no longer exists.

This means prosecution of another level. This is nothing compared to the countries where there is a ‘proper’ form of gun control. These nations now have the issue that a printer can get the people the firearms they never had to worry about. Unlike the Golden gun in the James bond film from 1974, these weapons are made from the cheap stuff and they do work.

So from the 60’s we had Star Trek and now we have the mobile phone (we’ve had that device a while), the 80’s we had Star Trek the Next Generation, and now we have the iPad. 1993 we got John Malkovic and his plastic gun, which is now a reality. What will we get next? More important, what laws will these innovations break (or not break as they are too innovative to cover)?

This brings me to the modern Jules Verne. Arthur C. Clarke had 3 laws of predictions. The third one was “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” He came up with that gem in 1962. Considering that into a legal frame I come to is “Any sufficiently advanced technology is not contained as illegal through law“.

This point has been proven in several cases.

Designer drugs. Often take too long to classify, giving the trendsetters an initial option to score large amounts of money, mCPP is a perfect example of this. (Criminal law)

Tying (product tying), in many cases, this practice is still (legally allowed) used widely in both Mobile and computer industries. Even though there is criticism against the existence of these laws you still see it used widely in getting a subscription with a provider and getting a ‘free’ phone. Also consider Microsoft and the merging of office software and the IE browser in the core of it all. (Competition law).

Digital piracy – Peer to peer sharing of movies and music (IP law)

– If we consider the events of LIBOR, Cyprus and the 2008 Bank crash, then we can safely say that banking laws are just not up to speed (especially as unregulated as they are now)

– Now printers that produce firearms.

Consider the next step, which is not that far away. In the movie ‘Ultraviolet’ we see a scene where a mobile phone is nothing more than a plastic mould, ‘distributed’ from a machine, just fold it and it is ready to use. How long until the plastic and electronic print board is just printed on any device. So jacking someone else’s phone is one step away. You will be paying for the ‘used by someone else’ costs. Not identity theft, but consumer technology theft.

From earlier and the last example we see that the law is not up to speed and a rewrite that allows for rules of evidence of another nature is becoming a more pressing matter then we realise, as we see that the law is increasingly running behind.

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