This is fascinating from both a technical and legal perspective, especially given that it's the lower receiver that was printed. (This is the part that counts as the "firearm" for legal purposes.) All the other parts can be freely purchased without regulation.
As the article notes:
[T]his means that people without gun licenses — or people who have had their licenses revoked — could print their own lower receiver and build a complete, off-the-books gun. What a chilling thought. But hey, that's the ambivalent nature of technology, the great enabler...I dare say many gun enthusiasts will find this liberating, not chilling.
Questions to consider:
1) Will this lead to calls for more regulation on currently-legal gun parts or on ammunition?One noteworthy comment by member "phurba" on the AR15.com forum:
2) Will the government seek to criminalize possession of the data files necessary to print the critical components (comparable to criminalizing possession of, say, child pornography on one's hard drive)?
3) Or is the cat out of the bag? ("Can't stop the signal!" as they would say in the Firefly universe.)
This is a hot topic on the 3D printer forums. Some people want to make plans for gun parts readily available, either to prove gun laws irrelevant or to circumvent them; while others feel that guns are icky and no such thing should happen.
Anyone who knows me here knows that I am hardly an advocate for gun control, however it is simple for an ineligible person to print a gun and buy the non-gun parts online. Is that something that could be regulated? Not really, unless you regulated the printers. The easiest way to control that is to stop the plans from being posted on public forums.
But let's be honest here: anyone who wants to circumvent these laws could go learn machining and mill their own AR receiver, and the same thing goes for learning CAD software and running a polymer printer. Does that mean that machinists classes and forums should be regulated? Certainly not. I really feel the same argument applied to 3D printers: basically, there's nothing that anyone can nor should do.(Link via Ryan M.)