Guns Don’t Kill People, 3D Printing Does? Why the Technology is a Distraction from Effective Gun Controls

Rory K. Little

Volume 65, Issue 6, 1505-1514

3D printing is technology that allows three-dimensional physical objects to be created by using a relatively small and inexpensive machine that looks much like a desktop paper printer. 3D printers have already been used to create guns and shotgun cartridges (but not ammunition), and the prospect that criminals will be able to “print” operational weapons at home has regulators in a tizzy. Some argue that 3D printing should be highly regulated to avoid such dangers.

In this Essay invoking Bewitched as the theoretical example of instantaneous 3D printing, Professor Little argues that gun control advocates should focus primarily on regulating criminal use of guns, and not on the technology used to manufacture them. Paper printers can be used to create instruments of fraud, but we do not ban paper printing at home. New technology has always stimulated fears. But criminal law properly focuses on the products of technology and their criminal uses. We should celebrate technological innovation and attempt to regulate its misuse without inhibiting creative development.

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