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Printing Weapons: A Computer-Generated Vision of the Not-Too-Distant Future

Printing Weapons: A Computer-Generated Vision of the Not-Too-Distant Future

Welcome to the 21st century, and welcome to an era of 3-D printed guns. New technology is not only bringing the manufacturing of guns into the garage, but is also forcing us to question what effective gun control would look like, and how it must be adapted to meet current technological advances.

3-D printers are a fast-developing technology that allows individuals to print objects out of plastic directly from computer-generated designs. Typically, these printers are used to build scale models of architecture plans or scientific models for classroom experiments. But, like much technology invented for one purpose, 3-D printers are now being applied to new and darker frontiers. This week, technology news sites went abuzz at the release of freely downloadable designs for 3-D printed weapons. With just a $500 investment in a 3-D printer, you too could download and build a fully functional weapon, ready to be used with any store bought ammunition without any identification or background checks required.


Gun control has long been a controversial topic in American politics. Debate about what the Second Amendment guarantees continuously ensues, with little or no consensus about the right of the state to limit individuals from obtaining weapons. However, despite status quo policies, which have allowed for the fairly unrestricted purchase of guns, there is a general uniformity in laws preventing felons from buying weapons.

The Reform Movement has long been active in the fight for common-sense gun control laws. We are horrified by the continued abuse of loose weapon laws and mourn each and every time a human life is lost from what we believe to be preventable deaths. Our tradition mandates: “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13) and teaches that “he who takes one life it is as if he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe”(Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). The Central Conference of American Rabbis resolution on gun control calls on the United States government to “eliminate the manufacture, importation, advertising, sale, transfer and possession of handguns except for limited instances.”

The world's first 3-D printed gun. Image courtesy of

If the self-production of weapons is indeed a new reality, we must question new ways to regulate the gun industry to keep those who are currently prevented from legally owning a gun from being able to use a weapon. With a stagnant political culture preventing the further regulation of handguns themselves, lawmakers have refocused their efforts on the sale of ammunition, seeking to limit the distribution of large-capacity magazines. Although the Federal Assault Weapons Act of 1994 banned magazines with more than 10 rounds of bullets, Congress failed to renew the law in 2004. Representative McCarthy introduced the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act (H.R. 308) in the 112th Congress, seeking to close this loophole (Senator Lautenberg has introduced a companion bill in the Senate – S. 32). These efforts, which we fully support, become all the more important with decreasing control over weapon sales and production.

Recent events such as the shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin and New York bring new light to the tragic nature of gun violence in the United States. Join us in an effort to bring gun control back to the forefront of American policy.

With new technology bringing the manufacture of weapons into the private realm, we must take action to advance regulation while the self-production of weapons is conceptual rather than commonplace. As Pirkei Avot 1:14 teaches, “If not now, when?”


Published: 9/19/2012

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