Way back in 2012 I reported on the initial 3D printing of firearms and saw one of the biggest reactions to any of my blogs, with a mostly negative and 'it will never be real' tinge.
Less than a year on and the 3D printed gun is real enough for widespread media coverage and a huge reaction in the US, with calls for a complete ban on the publication of designs and the licensing of all 3D printers.
But a stable door and bolted horse spring to mind! As a casual or regular visitor to the US you cannot miss the freedom of access to and general availability of firearms. Many hardware, general, and department stores have a 'guns section' where you can get everything from handguns to shotguns and rifles. But if you want to start a war it isn't difficult to get hold of an assault rifle or even heavier weaponry. With far more guns than people and a powerful gun lobby it is hard to see how 3D printed weapons could make the American situation even worse!
The people who ought to be worried about 3D technology and guns are the Europeans who will witness an 'end run' around their tight gun controls.
To put this in context; the only people I know with guns in the UK are farmers and smallholders with a pest problem. I qualify as I have quite a rabbit problem, but I am only 'allowed' a powerful air rifle for which I have to have a fire arms certificate.
This involved a visit by the police fire arms unit, an interview, criminal and medical records check, and character references from three different people who have known me for at least 10 years.
My gun has to be locked away in a steel cabinet bolted to floor and wall and the ammunition (0.22 pellets) have to be stored elsewhere. Only I can access the two different keys necessary to access the gun cabinet, and only I can use this registered weapon. Quite a contrast!
In my view the upside of 3D printing is so great that any form of control or ban would be counter productive, and even destructive. Follow the link to see a nice example of what the technology can do when good people get together.
As ever we have to balance the threat of a those of evil intent against the thousands of good people who will make stunning contributions to society with this technology. Sadly, societies and individuals in general are not good at making such judgements as the rationale of balancing risk seems to escape or confound them.
Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.