One of the truisms of investing is that you have to watch out for the “discontinuous innovation” — the unexpected development or invention that renders your investing plan worthless. The classic example is the “buggy whip industry” after the development of automobiles.
Something similar can be said of the statist need to control everything via regulation: it’s a fool’s errand, because you can’t predict the discontinuous innovation that will render the regulations meaningless; you can’t regulate human ingenuity.
In this case, the mirage the statists are chasing is “gun control” and its ultimate goal, near or total prohibition. Yesterday saw President Obama stage a dog-and-pony show of a press conference to sign three vapid memos, while the New York legislature a day or so before rammed through worse-than-meaningless legislation that trammeled the rights of law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to prevent another of the mass-shootings that supposedly inspired the law. Included in the bill was a regulation limiting magazines to a seven-shot capacity, rather than ten, meaning that you’ll no longer be able to buy them in New York gun shops. (1)
No problem! With a 3D printer, you can just make them at home!
Five months ago, the group of homemade gun enthusiasts known as Defense Distributed set out to create a lethal firearm that could be downloaded and 3D-printed entirely from scratch, circumventing all gun control laws. But as new gun bills have been proposed in the wake of recent shootings, creating a bootleg weapon with digital pieces may soon be far easier: As simple as printing a spring-loaded plastic box.
Over the past weekend, Defense Distributed successfully 3D-printed and tested an ammunition magazine for an AR semi-automatic rifle, loading and firing 86 rounds from the 30-round clip.
That homemade chunk of curved plastic holds special significance: Between 1994 and 2004, so-called “high capacity magazines” capable of holding more than 10 bullets were banned from sale. And a new gun control bill proposed by California Senator Diane Feinstein would ban those larger ammo clips again. President Obama has also voiced support for the magazine restrictions.
But Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson says he hopes the group’s recent work demonstrates the futility of that proposed ban in the age of cheap 3D printing.
It doesn’t just demonstrate it: it cranks the truth up to 20 and blasts it from the rooftops. Here’s a video demonstration from last year of how the 3D printer works for making tools:
When I first saw this video, my thought, like the narrator’s, was for its application to space travel and eventual colonization of other worlds. Neat, right? The Star Trek replicator isn’t a pipe-dream.
But now think about the effect on gun control: this is the discontinuous innovation. Statists and gun-banners and those standing on the graves of children can scream as loud as they want for ever more laws controlling firearms, maybe even get them, but, as long as you can download the plans and have access to a printer… All those laws are useless. They’re the modern buggy-whips.
Sure, these units are big right now and the materials (I’d guess) cost a fair bit, but that’s no bar to mobsters and cartels. (2) And think about the advances in computer printers: from hulking, crude units that took up lots of floor space to small desktop lasers the output of which is almost indistinguishable from print shop quality. The same will happen with these 3D printers; at some point not too far off, you’ll be able to make your own 30-shot semi-automatic rifle from the comfort of your own home.
At some point, of course, some statist will think of tightly regulating 3D printers, themselves. Good luck with that. It didn’t work with the Soviet Union and photocopiers, and it won’t work now. You’ll just wind up with a samizdat gun industry.
And this is one reason I assert that most gun regulations, done in haste, based on emotion, and exploiting a tragedy, are useless self-delusions. The give the sound and fury of effective action while really doing nothing and, in the case of the violently mentally ill, ignoring the real problem.
They’re about as effective as using a buggy whip on a Camaro.
(1) But criminals will be able to get all they need, and larger, on the black market. Like I said: meaningless.
(2) Man, is this going to put a dent in the ATF’s foreign sales…
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)