Virtual weapons and cyber violence are poised for a massive upgrade into real-world weapons and violence, thanks to the combination of 3D printers and a group called Defense Distributed, which claims to have created downloadable plans anyone can use to "print" working gun parts, reports the AP. A University of Texas law student who is the leader of the group's "Wiki Weapons" project says group members were able to print key parts of a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle last month and test fire it six times before it broke. The goal is to make a fully downloadable weapon.
3D printers were developed for aerospace, automobiles, and other high-tech industries, but prices on the technology are dropping, and they can now be purchased for as little as $1,500—although you'd have to spend at least $10,000 for a model that could "print" a gun. And as the guns are printed using plastics, the weapons would not show up on metal detectors. Rep. Steve Israel is using such guns as an argument for renewing the Undetectable Firearms Act, currently set to expire at the end of 2013. "When the [act] was last renewed in 2003, a gun made by a 3D printer was like a Star Trek episode," he says, "but now we know it's real."