|Published:||Apr 29, 2013 9:11 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Apr 29, 2013 9:11 PM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Something you've got to see to believe. Making part for a gun with your home computer. Literally printing them and creating an untraceable gun you can fire with no background check needed.
Right now, creating a real, untraceable gun at home is still science fiction but some people, including Congress, are worried the reality isn't far off. WINK News Call for Action uncovered the technology that's developing right here in Florida.
The technology is here to make parts for a gun with a 3D printer. These parts are untraceable and because they're printed with hard plastic, they're undetectable by x-rays or metal detectors. Right now, it'd be hard to do damage with these parts but some say it's hard to ignore where this is leading.
It's not just for TV shows anymore. 3D printers are here and now, replace ink with plastic or metal and printing, or really building, whatever you've designed. Anything from cell phone cases to shoes to gun parts.
"Where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything," President Barack Obama, State of the Union address.
President Obama referenced a lab using 3D printers in Ohio during his State of the Union address in February 2013. Inside an industrial park in Tampa, you'll find Engineering and Manufacturing Services or EMS.
They've made a gun that looks like the real deal. It's considered untraceable because it doesn't have a serial number. Next to a real gun, could you tell the difference? The gun EMS makes is just a model, made from a 3D printer.
"This is not a working gun. Nothing moves. Its just what we call a static model. We do prototyping for companies for holsters or they may make a laser sight. Some other accessory that goes on here," said Mark Kemper, President and CEO of EMS.
But how realistic is it to be able to make an untraceable gun made from a 3D printer? A group in Texas claims it made parts for an assault rifle using a 3D printer. Kemper said it's possible but not practical.
"It would be more realistic for somebody to just go buy a gun either legally or illegally. It would be very difficult for somebody to build a complete, working gun," said Kemper.
Gun experts at Fowler Firearms in Fort Myers agree.
"If you're a bad guy and you want to do something bad, you'll simply just steal a gun like most criminals do," said Josh Hackman, manager, Fowler Firearms.
Former law enforcement turned criminal justice professor, Charlie Mesloh, said 3D printed gun parts aren't a threat today but it's an emerging technology and an emerging threat.
"Its not for today. The concern might be five years, 10 years into the future that perhaps this will become something that is, at the level that a hobby person at home could pump out," said Mesloh, criminal justice professor, Florida Gulf Coast University.
Or a criminal or a terrorist. 3D printing technology has made it possible to make gun parts but not an entire gun. Kemper believes, for now, the cost of the printers, the time to print parts and the safety factor are a deterrent.
"The ones we use, in our business, are anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000. You're probably talking days of time and then sourcing all the parts and they could trace that all back to you. Maybe, maybe not. You definitely would run the risk of injuring yourself or maybe even killing yourself. There are so many guns readily available, legally and illegally, that I just don't see what you would want to do it," said Kemper.
But has technology costs drop, it could become more accessible to everyone.
"Something to keep an eye on?" said Genevieve Judge, WINK News reporter. "I would keep an eye on it and I think ATF will probably keep an eye on it," said Mesloh.
For now, printer costs are high but they are going down which means the future of untraceable guns, that could pass through a xray machine or airport scanner, is a possibility down the road.
Some groups have claimed the parts they've printed for an AR-15 rifle were able to hold up to fire several shots. Not everyone believes the technology is something to worry about but Congress does. The Undetectable Firearms Act, which makes producing undetectable guns illegal, expires at the end of the year so there is talk now about the need to renew it because of this 3D technology.
These printers can print in plastic and metal. Plastic is much cheaper than the ones that print metal. So the next concern is that people could print parks that could be combined with manufactured parts to create an untraceable gun. Gun experts point out even if that happened, the ammunition would be detected by xrays and metal detectors but the debate is changing with technology.