Hey everyone, welcome back to Bionic Bug podcast! You’re listening to episode 16. This is your host Natasha Bajema, fiction author, futurist, and national security expert. I’m recording this episode on August 5, 2018.
First off, I have a personal update. Next weekend, I’m headed to the Writer’s Policy Academy in Green Bay Wisconsin. I’ll be participating in two days of an interactive and educational hands-on experience led by police detectives and officers and designed for writers to enhance their understanding of all aspects of law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, and forensics. I’m currently signed up for hands-on sessions on high-speed pursuits, a car set ablaze and door entry/breaching among other things. Stay tuned for my read out in a few weeks.
Let’s talk tech news.
- It’s been an “exciting” week for emerging technologies and their potential risks.
- 3D printing made the headlines across the country this week, even making it onto the daily show with Trevor Noah.
- In truth, this is a threat that has been building for more than six years that has largely remained off the public’s radar. This week, a legal battle broke out with 19 states pitted against the State Department and Defense Distributed.
- In 2012, Cody Wilson, a second year law student at the University of Texas, and his friends got together and named themselves “Defense Distributed” and launched the “Wiki Weapon Project.” The idea was to create a gun that anyone could easily make at home.
- They used a crowdfunding website to raise funds to develop a 3D printed plastic gun that can be printed by a low-cost, open source 3D printer known as the RepRap.
- The group successfully produced a plastic gun capable of firing a .22 caliber bullet in 2013. The gun is called “The Liberator”. Cody Wilson and his friends uploaded the blueprint online.
- The design has two metal components the firing pin and a small piece of steel. The steel part is designed to make the gun detectable with a metal detector. The U.S. Undetectable Firearms Act prohibits weapons that don’t set off a metal detector.
- The design was downloaded 100,000 times in just two days before the State Department stepped in, demanding the removal of the blueprint from the website under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which governs the export of munitions.
- Wilson took down the blueprint, but it soon became available on disreputable file-sharing websites such as The Pirates Bay and on the Dark Web.
- Since this development, many more gun designs have been made available online. So why now?
- In 2015, Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed filed a law suit against the State Department, claiming his First Amendment rights were being infringed. The State Department settled with Wilson last month, allowing Defense Distributed to release the designs online for downloading.
- On Tuesday, a federal judge in Seattle granted a temporary restraining order to stop the posting of blueprints that would have legally allowed Americans to make 3D-printed guns in their own homes.
- Let’s unpack the issues.
- These guns are called “ghost guns” because they have no serial numbers, untraceable, undetectable
- They are homemade. Anyone with access to the Internet can download the blueprint and then print the parts using a cheap 3D printer.
- These guns are not entirely undetectable. “The TSA Has Found 3D-Printed Guns at Airport Checkpoints 4 Times Since 2016” The designs include a small metal part that can be detected by metal detectors. It remains illegal to develop guns that cannot be detected.
- I’m not sure if I understand why everyone is freaking out about this new development. We already have a gun accessibility problem in this country. Practically anyone can get access to weapons in the U.S., even semi-automatic weapons, including criminals. Plastic guns are not nearly as effective and run the risk of exploding after multiple shots.
- The real issue of concern here is how 3D printing is changing the game. Emerging technologies like 3D printers diffuse power away from the government into the hands of individuals. With 3D printing, citizens can print whatever they want in secret and the government can’t do much about it. Even if the government makes certain things illegal, detection is nearly impossible. And only the good guys will follow the law anyway.
- “The 3D-printed gun controversy: Everything you need to know” from cnet.com provides a helpful overview of the issues related to 3D printed guns
- If you want something to worry about, I suggest you start worrying about drones. Yesterday, the “Venezuelan President survives apparent drone assassination attempt.” He was giving a speech during a military parade and several drones flew toward him and exploded in the air. The video footage captures the reactions of President Nicolas Maduro and his wife on stage. The video also shows dozens of soldiers lined up, suddenly scattering and fleeing in terror.
Last week, Lara recovered from her smoke inhalation in the hospital and learned some interesting things about the case. Let’s find out what happens next.
The views expressed on this podcast are my own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.