Making 3D printed guns is about to become easier

Texas company to release blueprints for different guns starting Aug. 1


MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Patrick Henry Community College's Fab Lab in Martinsville has numerous 3D printers, both small ones and big commercial-grade printers.

Take a four-week training class, then pay for a monthly membership to the Fab Lab, and you can use the printers, but not to make guns.

"I myself am surprised that someone would kind of take (3D printing) to that level but then, at the same time, it's not surprising. I guess, with any kind of technology, people are very creative," Tiffani Underwood, PHCC's community development coordinator, said.  

Underwood said anyone who comes in is closely supervised to make sure they don't do anything they're not supposed to do.

"We'd want to make sure that anything that was printed here in the Fab Lab was appropriate on a number of different levels," Underwood explained.

On Aug. 1, Defense Distributed in Texas will start making blueprints for guns available online for anyone to download.

But even if the Fab Lab allowed people to make guns, Martinsville Deputy Police Chief Robert Fincher wouldn't expect people to flock to the lab.

"The technology is still newer and people are learning to utilize it and develop it. So here, locally, we're still a ways away from encountering that," Fincher said. "3D printed guns still (have) a ways to go with its own technology before it becomes something that's truly viable."

He warns people thinking about using a 3D printed gun that it is not as strong as a metal gun and could easily explode when fired.

His bigger concern, though, is people will use the blueprints to make metal guns.

"Milling, or machining a gun, is probably more realistic in this area, or in the present time. You take a blueprint and you take a machine and you use raw metal material and then cut it down into the appropriate parts," Fincher said.

Machines can be bought to do this at home.

The gun would not require a serial number and would be untraceable.

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