Forget 3-D Printing: When It Comes to DIY Guns, There's a Much Bigger Danger
These days, one of the biggest concerns with gun access revolves around 3-D printers, particularly around the possibility that a shooter could produce an unregistered weapon in the privacy of his or her home. But, for all the fuss about 3-D printers, a much bigger -- and more dangerous -- gun loophole is looming.
Recently, Mother Jones reporter Bryan Schatz told the story of how he constructed a fully-functioning, perfectly legal semiautomatic AK-47 assault rifle. Most of the parts came from disassembled guns that were made elsewhere and are totally legal to sell. The receiver -- basically, the only part whose sale is closely regulated -- had to be constructed by hand, a process that took Schatz a few hours in a machine shop.
Homemade AK-47s are legal, as long as the owner doesn't have a criminal record. They also don't have serial numbers, which makes them basically untraceable and impossible to regulate. And, unlike a 3-D printed handgun, AK-47s can fire ten rounds per second, are extremely durable, and can be easily repaired or replaced.
But what about price? Most 3-D printers that are capable of printing a gun cost over $1,000, making them a far from economical choice when it comes to firearms. While Schatz was circumspect about the cost of his gun, it's possible to buy basic AK-47 kits online for as little as $119. A brand-new barrel (the original barrels are cut into pieces) costs another $200 or so, and -- assuming one has the proper tools -- the cost of making areceiver is negligible. If one goes to a "buildparty," like the one Schatz attended, the price drops more.
In other words, while 3-D printed guns may be the cutting edge of technology, the biggest safety danger on the market is a bit more modest: 65-year-old, extremely common bit of battlefield armament that can be constructed in a garage and ordered on the internet.
Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.