Homemade Coilgun Excites Sci-Fans, Frightens Politicians

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.









Hoplophobes Terrified of Lego Gun, Boy Suspended

In an absurd display of zero tolerance and anti-gun hysteria, a Palmer, Massachusetts kindergartner was given detention for bringing a Lego gun the size of a quarter onto a school bus. The boy was also forced to write a letter of apology to the bus driver. As much as I’d like to believe that this will instill the child with a healthy disrespect for unwarranted authority, tragically I fear he will be shamed into submissive acceptance of his incompetent overlords.

The 6-year-old boy was playing with the diminutive toy when another student alerted the bus driver about the impending doom of the G.I. Joe accessory. Acting with all of the tact and logic one expects from a public school worker, the driver then put the children in an exponentially more dangerous situation by bringing the vehicle to an abrupt stop. The Old Mill Pond Elementary School then meted out its punishment to the youngster, presumably feeling as wise as Solomon.

Mieke Crane, the boy’s mother, was not thrilled with the schools draconian response:

“I think they overreacted, totally. I totally do…At six-years-old, I don’t really think he understood the zero-tolerance policy and related it to this as the same.”

This is not the first time that school officials have overreacted in the name of zero-tolerance. As I have written about before at Wondergressive, earlier this year a 7-year-old boy was suspended for biting a Pop-Tart into (supposedly) the shape of a gun. Colorado second grader Alex Evans was suspended in February for throwing an imaginary grenade while playing soldier at recess.  First grader Rodney Lynch was actually suspended for making a gun gesture with his hand, pointing it at a fellow classmate and saying “pow.”

Most disturbingly, Honor Student Savana Redding, then 13, was strip-searched down to her underwear under suspicion of possessing prescription-strength Ibuprofen. The humiliating search proved fruitless. The Supreme Court decided 8-1 that the school officials did indeed violate Redding’s 4th Amendment rights by illegally searching her. However, the Justices ruled that the officials could not personally be held liable for their criminal actions.  

All in the name of zero-tolerance for both guns and drugs.

Sanity and reason are not the end-goals of these bizarre, one-size-always-fits-all policies. Instead they serve to protect teachers and union officials from parents who might sue for malfeasance or neglect.

Recite the magic incantation of “Procedures were followed!” and no litigious harm shall befall you! As long as these bus drivers, teachers and principals are not held accountable for their misdeeds, the absurdity will only magnify. Only when they are personally liable for their own actions will they (unwillingly) step away from the Cliffs of Insanity.

Stories like this help to reveal the madness that is currently brewing in American public schools. They also help illustrate the growing fear of firearms in the country. The disconcerting part of this trend is that fear is a rational response to something threatening. The current mania sweeping the nation is more properly described as an irrational phobia of guns, hoplophobia to be exact.

Despite highly visible and tragic events like the Sandy Hook shooting, violent crime has actually been dropping for about two decades. The gun murder rate has almost halved in that stretch. The overall non-fatal violent crime rate involving guns dropped 75% between 1993 and 2011.

Yet despite this good news, when polled by Pew Research Center, a whopping 56% of Americans falsely believed that gun crime had increased over that period. Only 12% correctly responded that crime has plummeted.

As witnessed by the innumerable calls for further gun control post-Sandy Hook, Americans are increasingly frightened of firearms despite the demonstrable reality that the world around them continues to be safer than at any time since the early ’90s. This irrational fear is crescendoing into a palpable phobia for all things ballistic.

This fear of guns is very animistic in nature. In animistic religions, plants, animals, and even inanimate objects are imbued with special powers or spiritual significance. When you look at the irrational hatred of firearms through this lens, the insanity of zero-tolerance begins to come sharply into focus. It doesn’t matter that the Lego gun is the size of a quarter, in the eyes of hoplophobes it is still a gun with magical powers. It doesn’t matter that it’s simply a kid’s Pop-Tart chewed into an ambiguous shape, it looks like a gun, dammit!

The best example of this phobia is poor 7-year-old Rodney Lynch, whom I previously mentioned was suspended for making a gun shape with his hand. He was punished merely for making a representation of a firearm. In more Biblical terms, he was penalized for making a graven image of an unholy object. He had to be punished for this sin, lest he or others repeat the blasphemy.

Another aspect of this irrational fear is that it’s only directed towards everyday citizens, something that doesn’t apply to police officers, who are viewed as a special breed of humans. Famously, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had to walk back gun control legislation because it didn’t exempt police officers from the ban on “high-capacity” magazines.

To clarify the governor’s position, spokesman Matthew Wing said:

“Police officers possessing ammunition clip [sic] with more than seven bullets are not in violation of this law and they never will be, period.”

This special privilege granted to the Boys in Blue seem unwarranted given their behavior.

During the manhunt for former-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner earlier this year, at least seven officers amazingly mistook Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71, for the sizable black fugitive. They fired upon the pair and Hernandez was shot twice in the back. Carranza was injured from flying glass and shrapnel from the over two dozen bullet holes that were found in the back of their pickup truck.

Those officers seem like models of restraint.

More recently, Philly.com reported on a surge in police shootings in the City of Brotherly Love:

“The number of shootings by police in 2012 resulting in death or injury climbed to the highest level it’s been in 10 years. Philadelphia police shot 52 suspects last year while responding to calls for reported crimes. Of those shot, 15 people died.”

These shootings represent a 50% increase over 2011. The police department hasn’t provided a reason for the increase and they have refused to release any information concerning the shootings.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey supported his department’s use of force, saying:

“I think we have a solid policy and consider it best practice.”

Mistakes were made. Procedures were followed.

Another disgusting aspect of this animism manifests itself in the way it’s reported. Almost invariably the passive voice is used to describe police officers shooting a victim.

Three years ago in Detroit, a 7-year-old girl was fatally shot during a raid in search of a murder suspect. The police fired a flash-bang into the house to disorient its occupants and stormed in. Rather than directly blaming Officer Joseph Weekley for killing the girl, amazingly the Associated Press writes that “A gunshot then went off inside, fatally striking [Aiyana Stanley-Jones] in the head while she slept on the couch.”

A human being didn’t pull the trigger. The gun magically “went off.” The writer then reports that “[Weekley] didn’t prevent his gun from firing” and later that “Police have said his gun accidentally discharged.”

Guns don’t accidentally discharge. The safety was off and someone pulled the trigger when it was pointed at a human being. But in the animistic view of firearms, they possess a will of their own and the supernatural ability to impart it on the world.

The hoplophobia of many Americans today has manifested itself in bizarre and increasingly paranoid ways. Pop-Tarts and Legos are viewed as functional weapons by school officials yet the violence perpetrated by police officers is seemingly justified in the eyes of the press and the public. Malfeasance is explained away by triggers with self-determination.

Guns are tools, just like automobiles or hammers or ladders, and they can be dangerous when they are misused. But they are not magical talismans. They are not to be inherently feared. Rather, like with any dangerous device, criminal users of firearms or cars should be held culpable for their neglect or malicious intent.

People need to be educated about guns and their productive uses and also their potential dangers. By outlawing the mere representation of firearms, it ensures that people will continue to reflexively and irrationally fear them, knee-jerking into draconian and pointless legislation.

More education and less bed-wetting terror is needed to end this hysteria. However, I fear that many people deem guns to be too impure and icky to dare challenge their own animistic preconceptions of them.

For the sake of liberty, I hope I’m wrong.