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Editorial: 3D gun printing is more than a 2nd Amendment issue

August 23, 2018 GMT

The issue of 3D printed guns is not just an issue of 2nd Amendment rights.

Sure, it can be. Doubtless, for some, that’s all it is. But there are other issues at play, too, and ignoring them would be a mistake.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has taken Defense Distributed, the company releasing plans for the guns online, to court to stop the access, which circumvents state law. That is a state’s rights issue. We can’t champion the right of individual states to make their own decisions about things in some cases but not others.

There is also safety. Yes, it does seem odd to talk about safety when you’re talking about something where injury is the intent, but any responsible gun owner will tell you that safety is not only important but paramount.

You clean your gun to keep it safe. You load it safely, carry it safely, teach others to use it safely. The consequences of not using it safely are horrifyingly predictable.

But the thing about a questionably manufactured gun is nothing is predictable, but the results could still be horrible. Some people think the guns -- built from thermoplastic material using prohibitively expensive technology -- will be perfectly safe. Maybe that’s true, but people do seem to find a way to hack those hurdles.

There is also the issue of technology outpacing common sense.

Anyone who can be reduced to a raging cartoon character by an uncooperative TV remote or who has spent a workday trying to figure out why documents are showing up in accounting instead of your desktop printer knows technology that seems simple is often inexplicably tricky.

Now apply those scenarios to a plastic device trying to contain and direct a bullet going 950 mph. Think about how easy it is to break things that are sold as unbreakable. Think about how it all could go wrong, even in the safest, most stable, most well-trained hands.

There may come a day when the technology is perfected and the process commonplace. But are we there yet? Doesn’t seem so. And if this trigger is pulled too soon, it will be hard to put the bullet back in the barrel.