Let the pearl clutching re-commence!
Several months ago a group called Defense Distributed made headlines by using 3-D printers to create high-capacity magazines for firearms. They then went one step further and created a weapon called The Liberator, the first operational 3-D printed gun. Predictably, the reaction from Washington was characterized by an intense desire to shut down or ban the new, as-of-yet uncontrolled technology.
I have frequently written about guns and many people’s irrational fear of them for Wondergressive, and I believe that Washington may soon have another aneurysm over the latest breakthrough in do-it-yourself frontier firearm technology.
The latest development comes from Jason Murray of Delta-V Engineering. He has designed a device that is sure to make sci-fi and military enthusiasts lustily drool in anticipation: A homemade gauss machine gun. Murray has posted the weapon’s specifications, schematics detailing its construction, and also explanations of the mathematics and engineering involved in constructing the device.
The fully automatic weapon, also known as a homemade coilgun, is named the CG-42. Coilguns operate by wrapping a series of electromagnets around the barrel and function similarly to railguns, another sci-fi staple. By sequentially activating these magnets, they pull a metal object along the barrel at considerable speeds, the exact velocity depending on the strength of the magnets themselves. According to Murray’s specs, the current CG-42 can shoot nail-like projectiles out of the barrel at a speed of 40.03 meters per second. Judging from the (incredibly badass) video below, this speed is probably not enough to kill a human being, but I still certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to donate my body for that experiment.
The sheer uncontrollability of 3-D guns was one of the factors that led to the bed-wetting from Washington. Whenever politicians discover something that they can’t regulate by current law, they almost universally either create new laws that allow them to, or rework and “reinterpret” old laws to the same end. A perfectly impotent example of this was the hysteria around Sudafed and other cold medicines that contained pseudo-ephedrine. Once lawmakers discovered that people could be using these drugs to create methamphetamine (a technique that—as Walter White has engrained in all of us— creates an INFERIOR product!), they created regulations that required buyers to be ID’d and to be put on a list so that officials could keep track of their potential meth-cook status…or to keep an accurate record of just how bad their allergies really are.
Expect the same treatment for Murray and his homemade badassery. However, this instance is quite beautiful because what can the politicians really do to quell people from creating things like this? Create a national registry of magnet owners?
I jest, but Washington has proven itself to have a perverted and profoundly deleterious view of the effects of their actions. In contrast to the famous proverb, the government proudly flaunts its own Bizarro World maxim: “If it ain’t workin’, don’t fix it.”
The consequences that would arise from regulations concerning 3-D printing or homemade gauss guns are eminently predictable, as regulations controlling popular things always have the same outcome. Banning alcohol led to black markets, increased gang violence, and inferior hooch that was inherently more dangerous than the original product. Ditto for the War on Drugs, which I maintain is a frontrunner (if not the outright Usain Bolt of contenders) for the worst and most damaging domestic policy since slavery.
Neither policy did anything to curb usage rates, nor will new ones suppress innovative and motivated people from creating homemade weapons. The trick to understanding the situation is to step back and look at the big picture. Rather than freak out about what a few rogue individuals can make in their garages, people should focus their concern on a government that continues to coercively erode the civil rights of all citizens, a government that sees every problem as a nail and the only tool on its belt is indiscriminate force.
More than anything else, Murray’s CG-42 is a testament to his skills as an engineer and fabricator. He says on his site that the gauss gun and other projects are “about making concepts from science fiction become reality.” I heartily applaud his creation and urge that he continues to explore the possibilities of ballistic science, as I equally enjoy both rad futuristic weapons and fundamentally pissing off politicians.
Having said that, I sadly predict that his work will likely blip on the Washington’s radar in the near-future. Hopefully the CG-42 won’t further tempt them to regulate things they can’t possibly understand or control, however, looking at their past record that seems to be excessively optimistic.
I hope that Murray doesn’t get a stern knock on his door from the Feds any time soon. Although to be fair, a knock would certainly be preferable compared to all the times when the state doesn’t even bother to do that.
*BONUS FUN: Here’s a video of the military testing a railgun in 2010.