Will 3-D-Printers Produce Nuclear Weapons One Day?

3-D printed guns — and one day, perhaps, WMDs — raise serious civil liberties issues. (Photo: PopularMechanics.com)

3-D printed guns — and one day, perhaps, WMDs — raise serious civil liberties issues. (Photo: PopularMechanics.com)

As you have no doubt heard, 3-D printers can now produce guns. The specter of them producing nuclear, as well as chemical and biological weapons has also been raised. At Reason.com, J.D. Tucille quotes a Sept. 6 op-ed in the Washington Post by Daniel C. Tirone and James Gilley, in which they write that “technology is a bigger obstacle to reducing future gun deaths than either the National Rifle Association or differing interpretations of the Second Amendment.” In fact:

Within a few years, the greatest challenge to the government’s ability to control firearms will be advances in additive manufacturing, popularly known as “3-D printing.”

Worse, if that’s possible

…. that challenge will expand exponentially as the technology advances, one day enabling individuals to print chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction at home.

I know — huh? Nevertheless

… considering expected advances in the technologies, terrorist groups will threaten nations with 3-D printed chemical, biological and nuclear weapons within a couple of decades. … [They] will be able to bypass international controls on weapons production and proliferation — in much the same way that individuals producing handguns at home can bypass point-of-sale firearms controls.

The technology to print from standard metals such as steel and titanium already exists, allowing for firearms far stronger than the roughly made and fragile plastic handgun.

Hard to believe WMDs can be 3-D printed? Consider this:

Work in biological materials is expanding at a rapid pace, with scientists printing human organs, medications and even hamburgers; bacteria and chemicals aren’t far behind.

Once we get over our shock, what’s to be done? Here’s one approach:

The State Department has asked a Texas-based organization called Defense Distributed to remove from public access the blueprints for its 3-D printed “Liberator” handgun and other related files, arguing that making these available outside of the country may violate International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Defense Distributed is challenging these proposed restrictions on the grounds that they violate the First and Second amendments.

Great: yet another national-security concern with the potential to violate civil liberties. In this case, though, it may be justified.