University of Texas law student leads the way in 3-D printable gun technology

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Demands for stricter restrictions on gun sales are all the rage right now in light of the Connecticut elementary school massacre. However, a law student at the University of Texas says new technology will soon change the regulatory landscape dramatically, and possibly make such regulation futile.

The student, Cody Wilson, is among the leaders of Defense Distributed, home of the wiki weapon project. The goal of the collaborative, nonprofit project is simple: to create freely available plans that you can download from the Internet and produce a gun using a 3-D printer.

YouTube video at shows Wilson’s group test firing a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, reports KVUE, Austin’s ABC affiliate. An AR-15 was among the weapons Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook shooting.

According to Wilson, 24, the group used a 3-D printer to print a plastic lower receiver. The piece was then attached to the rest of a real gun. In a test that was unverified by any independent observers, the plastic piece broke, but not before the gun fired six live rounds.

“What I’m doing is showing people, okay, this is something that can be done right now with this technology, and we’re changing this in the software, and we’re making modifications and customizations and testing with different rounds and different guns, but what we make won’t look like a plastic AR-15,” Wilson told WVUE. “What we make will just be the gun at its most essential, something that just is a firearm practically speaking.”

The legality of printable 3-D guns is not clear. (RELATED: Democratic congressman urges renewal of plastic gun ban)

Democratic New York Rep. Steve Israel doesn’t want to take any chances, though, according to WVUE. Israel has called for the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, which is set to expire in December 2013.

As Slate notes, the Act makes it illegal to “manufacture, sell, ship, deliver” or “possess” firearms that garden-variety metal detectors or x-ray machines can’t detect. A renewed act would presumably cover guns manufactured with 3-D printed gun parts, which are plastic.

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Eric Owens