Amid the controversy surrounding 3D printed firearms, writer Cory Doctorow fears that the larger discussions regarding regulation of new and potentially problematic technologies will be clouded over by arguments over gun rights.
Now that the US State Department has temporarily banned the release of schematics for 3D printed guns — after they were downloaded over 100,000 times since their publication last week by the firearms manufacturer Defense Distributed — writer Cory Doctorow wonders what the future holds for technologies that blur the boundaries between professional and amateur, and how a government might impose regulations around them. The potential for precedent-setting legal discussions is high, yet he fears that American emotion surrounding gun rights and control could create ineffective laws.
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Doctorow distinguishes between regulation and “regulatability,” noting that it’s just as easy to order parts for a traditionally-made gun as it is to build a 3D printed version. A more important question involves the reasoning behind the State Department ban: the possibility that distributing schematics violates international gun trafficking laws. Founder Cody Wilson says Defense Distributed is covered because the laws exempt material located in a library. Doctorow responds, “[W]hile I’d love to see a court evaluate whether the internet should be treated as a library in law, I’m worried that when it comes to guns, the judge may find himself framing the question in terms of whether a gun foundry should be treated as a library.”
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