3D printed weapons

(via Boing Boing) There's a Chris Rock routine about gun control, in which he proposes letting go of the effort to restrict guns, and controlling the supply of bullets instead. It's a ridiculous premise, but it might soon be the only approach we have.

An amateur gunsmith, operating under the handle of "HaveBlue" [...], announced recently in online forums that he had successfully printed a serviceable .22 caliber pistol.

Despite predictions of disaster, the pistol worked. It successfully fired 200 rounds in testing.

HaveBlue then decided to push the limits of what was possible and use his printer to make an AR-15 rifle. To do this, he downloaded plans for an AR-15 receiver in the Solidworks file format from a site called CNCGunsmith.com. After some small modifications to the design, he fed about $30 of ABS plastic feedstock into his late-model Stratasys printer. The result was a functional AR-15 rifle. Early testing shows that it works, although it still has some minor feed and extraction problems to be worked out.

3D printers are getting better, and cheaper, every year, and gun control may be distressingly lax now, but it's going to be near-impossible when the designs are available online.  At that point, it may be more reasonable to attempt to regulate access to the bullets -- since they have to be made out of metal and gunpowder, it would be much more difficult for a general-purpose replicator like a 3D printer to create them.

This is a major reason I'm worried about the political dialogue in the US.  Our major political parties can't come to agreement on issues that have been solved for decades.  I worry that it will be impossible for the United States's system of government to survive a post-industrial economy.