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US company has licence to print guns

With any breakthrough technological innovation, there tends to be a familiar pattern to the way it is implemented: the trivial, the medical and the lethal. The 3D printer is following this established route.

This undeniably impressive technology has already gone through the trivial process, with Nokia promising to let users print their own handsets and the medical, with surgeons printing a skull implant. It was just a matter of time before somebody used the technology to make weaponry.

The innovation, predictably enough, comes in the USA where the constitution insists on making it as easy as possible for citizens with a grudge to obtain high-specification firearms with the minimum of delay.

Cody Wilson’s company Defense Distributed now has a federal firearms licence that allows it to manufacture and distribute 3D-printed guns. Wilson is waiting for an add-on to the licence that will allow him to sell guns directly. It should only be a matter of weeks before this is possible.

"The big thing it allows me to do is that it makes me manufacture under the law—everything that manufacturers are allowed to do," he told Ars Technica. "I can do firearms transactions and transport." He has already demonstrated that it is possible to print an AR-15 semi-automatic, ownership of which, horrifyingly, is allowed under American law without a license.

This news has probably been greeted with whoops of "Yee-Haw" across the libertarian, gun-loving groups in the States, although it rings several alarm bells for those Americans who have noticed that quite a lot of people have been getting massacred by firearms recently.

In the face of considerable resistance, President Obama has persisted with his attempts to obtain support for firearms control. Technology might be about to render such campaigns futile, as any American who needs a semi-automatic might soon just be able to print one off at home.

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