The Future of Firearms: Legally Homemade Metal Guns

Metal-Gun-640x353Ever since 3-D printing became a commercially available service, Defense Distributed has sought to use the technology to create firearms. And in their latest act of circumventing the law, the online, open-source, libertarian group has created another means of building homemade firearms. But unlike the Liberator – their previous single shot incarnation – this one doesn’t involve making guns from 3-D printed plastic.

The group’s latest invention is known as the Ghost Gunner – a small, computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine that they used to create an aluminum lower receiver for an AR-15 rifle. This device, which costs about $1200, allows people with no gunsmith training to assemble a working assault rifle at home with no licensing or serial number. And for the moment, it’s completely legal.

metal-gun-inline22The Ghost Gunner itself is a small box that measures about one foot on each side and contains an Arduino controller and a custom-designed spindle that holds a steel carbide drill bit. It works like any other CNC machine – the drill spins up and moves in three dimensions to carve items out of blocks of metal. However, this machine is specifically intended to make an AR-15 lower receiver.

That’s the part of a gun that connects the stock, barrel, and magazine – and the part that’s regulated by the ATF and assigned a serial number. Selling it without a license is illegal, but making it yourself is perfectly fine. An untraceable gun built without a serial number is often called a “ghost gun” by gun control advocates. Hence why Defense Distributed chose to appropriate the term, to deliberately generate controversy.

Cody-Wilson-Defense-Distributed-Wiki-Weapon-3-d-printed-gunThis is just the latest example of Defense Distributed pushing the bounds of home manufacturing technology to make a point. Cody Wilson, the group’s founder, is an openly radical, libertarian who has repeatedly stated that mass shootings and gun-related violence are simply the price people pay for freedom. In addition, his group has openly stated that they would not allow tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting deter them.

Manufacturing homemade weapons has always been his way of showing that technology can evade regulations, thus making the state obsolete. The group’s previous weapons – the 3D-printed Liberator gun – was more of a political statement. The gun itself was neither effective or practical; but then again, it wasn’t meant to be. This proof-of-concept weapon was simply meant to show that a new era of manufacturing is upon us.

liberatorThe Liberator itself is prone to failure and usually only manages a few poorly aimed shots before breaking down. In designing a cheap CNC machine specifically to make gun parts, Defense Distributed is delivering a viable weapon at a fraction of the cost of other CNC machines (which cost many thousands of dollars). If you can make a lower receiver, all the other parts can be ordered online cheaply and legally.

 

The Ghost Gunner is capable of making anything that fits in the build envelope, which accounts for several gun parts that go into assembling a working assault weapon or handgun. The only requirement is the parts be created with Defense Distributed’s Physibles Development SDK (pDev) and distributed as a .dd file. In that respect, it’s not much different than any number of 3D printers.

3dmetalgun-640x353Once again, Defense Distributed has proven that, for better or worse, we live in an entirely new era of manufacturing. In the past, a person needed considerable training if they wanted to make their own firearm. Nowadays, one needs only the right kind of hardware, software, and access to the necessary files. And as always seems to be the case in the digital age, the law is miles behind the curve.

One can expect the law will be upon Defense Distributed once again and place a ban on their Ghost Gunner. However, it goes without saying that Wilson and his colleagues will simply try again some other way and the fight between regulators and home manufactures will continue. But regardless of the issue of firearms, this is an indication of the age we now live in, where distributed systems are making for some rather interesting and fearful possibilities.

 

Source: extremetech.com

Firearm Safety: Colorado Student Invents Smart Gun

smartgun1In the course of considering the rash of gun violence and mass shootings that have swept the US in recent years, a great deal of attention has become focused on “smart guns”. Incorporating the latest in biometrics, fingerprinting and wireless connectivity, these weapons are designed to only be usable by their rightful (and presumably, legal) owners. One such concept comes from Colorado – which has a history of gun violence – and from a high school student, no less.

His name is Kai Kloepfer, a 17 year-old a high school student from Boulder who just won the $50,000 Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge for his smart gun prototype. Inspired by the recent school shooting in Connecticut and undeterred by the lack of legislative change in Washington DC, the Smart Tech Foundation believes that ingenuity, technology and the invisible hand of the free market will persevere where the federal government has failed.

smartgun_markAngel investor and gun reform advocate Ron Conway became the main backer of the $1 million Smart Tech prize to spur gun safety solutions earlier this year. As he said to the SF Examiner in January of this year, he hopes people will “use innovation to bring about gun safety. Let’s not rely on Washington”. According to the Smart Tech Foundation, a total of 15 innovators will receive a part of that million dollar prize.

Kloepfer is the first to get the award. His gun design works by creating a user ID and locking in the fingerprint of each user allowed to use the gun. The gun will only unlock with the unique fingerprint of those who have already permission to access the weapon. According to Kloepfer, all user data is kept on the gun and nothing is uploaded anywhere else, so it would be very difficult to hack. This potentially makes it ideal for military use as well.

smartgunKloepfer came up with the idea two years ago when he needed something for his high school science project. The Aurora, Colorado shooting had recently happened just an hour’s drive on his home, and was on everyone’s mind at the time. Kloepfer’s parents helped him in monetary increments to get the parts needed for each improvement. It would eventually cost $3000 for the whole thing to come together, maturing from phase to phase with each science fair.

As he explains the inspiration and development process:

The idea came to me right as I was falling asleep. It was kinda in the back of my mind because of the shooting. I scribbled it down before I went to bed and fell asleep and then in the morning I began my research… At first it was just a concept on paper. Right now it’s a prototype on a plastic model. Its not entirely there but it works.

kai-kloepfer-smart-tech-13Some of the $50,000 has already been used to purchase a 3D printer to create new parts for his prototype. Kloepfer, who will graduate from Fairview High School this year, plans to use the rest of it toward the integration of a fingerprint scanner. Ultimately, he hopes his and other designs like it will make a dent in the problem of gun violence and help to reduce the needless deaths caused by it:

Every 30 minutes in the U.S. a kid dies from a gun. I want my gun to help reduce accidental deaths and injuries, and to prevent tragedies.

His intentions are certainly well-placed. According to the Center for Injury and Research Policy, 1500 kids die from a gun and many more are seriously injured every year. And according to the Smart Tech Challenges Foundations own website, 2 million children live in a home with a firearm that is both loaded and unlocked. So beyond gun violence, gun safety advocates are sure to see the value in developing the technology.

smartgun_lockKloepfer also spoke about his biometric smart gun tech this past week at the TEDx Mile High: CONVERGENCE in Denver, Colorado. Stay tuned, for I plan to post the video of his talk as soon it becomes available! And in the meantime, be sure to check out the Smart Tech Challenge Foundation’s website for more information on the winners of the challenge.

Source: techcrunch.com, sfexaminer.com, smarttechfoundation

The Future is Here: Smart Guns

smart gun 2010 internet 0009Not long ago, designer Ernst Mauch unveiled a revolutionary new handgun that grew out of a desire to merge digital technology with firearm safety. Known as the “smart gun” – or Armatix iP1 – this pistol comes with a safety feature designed to ensure that only the guns owner may fire it. Basically, the gun comes with a watch (the iW1) that it is synchronized to, and the weapon will only fire if it is within ten inches of it. So unless you’re wearing the iW1, the weapon will not fire in your hands.

The weapon is in part the result of attempts to find intelligent solutions to gun safety and gun violence. And Mauch’s design is one of several proposed innovations to use digital/smart technology for just such a purpose. Back in January, the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation launched the first of four $1 million challenges aimed at inspiring the kinds of innovation that could help lead to safer guns – and a reduction in the number of tragic deaths and injuries that make the headlines nearly every day.

Armatix-Smart-SystemGiven the recent failures to reach a legislative solution to the ongoing problem of gun-violence, these efforts should come as no surprise. And Mauch, the lead designer of the iP1, claimed in a recent op-ed piece with the Washington Post that the number of gun enthusiasts will rise as the result of its enhanced safety. As a designer who’s patents include the USP family of pistols, the HK416 assault rifle, G36 assault rifle and XM25 grenade machine gun – he is a strong advocate of a market-based solution.

The gun has already sparked a great deal of controversy amongst gun advocates and the National Rifle Association. Apparently, they worry that legislation will be passed so that only smart guns can be sold in gun stores. This is largely in response to a 2002 New Jersey law that stipulated that once the technology was available, that smart guns be sold exclusively in the state. As a result, the NRA has been quite vocal about its opposition to smart guns, despite offers made to repeal the law in exchange for them easing their position.

gun-lock-inlineAs already noted, the iP1 is not the only smart technology being applied to firearms. Sentini, a Detroit-based startup founded by Omer Kiyani, is designing a biometric gun lock called Identilock. Attaching to a gun’s trigger, it unlocks only when the owner applies a fingerprint. As an engineer, a gun owner, a father, and the victim of gun violence (he was shot in the mouth at 16), he too is committed to using digital technology and biometrics to make firearms safer.

An engineer by training, Kiyani spent years working as a software developer building next-generation airbag systems. He worked on calibrating the systems to minimize the chance of injury in the event of an accident, and eventually, he realized he could apply the same basic concepts to guns. As he put it:

The idea of an airbag is so simple. You inflate it and can save a life. I made the connection. I have something in my house that’s very dangerous. There’s got to be a simple way to protect it.

biometric_gunlockInitially, Kiyani considered technology that would require installing electronic locking equipment into the guns themselves, similar to what the iP1 employs. But as an engineer, he understood the inherent complications of designing electronics that could withstand tremendous shock and high temperatures, not to mention the fact it would be incredibly difficult to convince gun manufacturers to work with him on the project.

As a result, he began to work on something that anyone could add to a gun. Ultimately, his creation is different in three ways: it’s optional, it’s detachable, and it’s quick. Unlike biometric gun safes and other locking mechanisms, the Identilock makes it as easy to access a firearm as it is to unlock an iPhone. He pitched hundreds of gun owners a variety of ideas over the course of his research, but it was the biometric lock they inevitably latched onto

gun-lock-inline1The Identilock is also designed using entirely off-the-shelf components that have been proven effective in other industries. The biometric sensor, for example, has been used in other security applications and is approved by the FBI. Cobbling the sensor together from existing technologies was both a cost-saving endeavor and a strategic way to prove the product’s effectiveness more quickly. Currently, the project is still in the prototype phase, but it may prove to be the breakout product that brings biometrics and safety together in recent years.

And last, but certainly not least, there is the biometric option that comes from PositiveID, the makers of the only FDA-approved implantable biochip – which is known as the Verichip. In the past, the company has marketed similar identity-confirming microchips for security and medical purposes. But this past April, the company announced a partnership with Belgium-based gun maker FN Manufacturing to produce smart weapons.

VERICHIPThe technology is being marketed to law enforcement agencies as a means of ensuring that police firearms can never be used by criminals or third parties. The tiny chip would be implanted in a police officer’s hand and would match up with a scanning device inside a handgun. If the officer and gun match, a digital signal unlocks the trigger so it can be fired. Verichip president Keith Bolton said the technology could also improve safety for the military and individual gun owners, and it could be available as early as next year.

Similar developments are under way at other gun manufacturers and research firms. The New Jersey Institute of Technology and Australian gun maker Metal Storm Ltd. are working on a prototype smart gun that would recognize its owner’s individual grip. Donald Sebastian, NJIT vice president for research and development and director of the project, claims that the technology could eventually have an even bigger impact on the illegal gun trade.eri

An employee of Armatix poses for photographers as he presents the ÒSmartGun Concept".Regardless of the solutions being proposed and the progress being made, opposition to these and other measures does not appear to be letting up easily. New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg recently announced that she would introduce a bill to reverse the 2002 New Jersey “smart gun” law if the National Rifle Association would agree not to stand in the way of smart gun technology. The NRA, however, has not relented in its stance.

In addition, biochips and RFID implants have a way of making people nervous. Whenever and wherever they are proposed, accusations of “branding” and “Big Brother” monitoring quickly follow. And above all, any and all attempts to introduce gun safety are met with cries of opposition by those who claim it infringes on citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights. But given the ongoing problem of gun violence, school shootings, and the amount of violence perpetrated with stolen weapon, it is clear that something needs to change.

guns1In 2011 in the United States, roughly 3.6 people per 100,000 were killed with a firearm – which amounts to 32,163 people. In addition, of the 15,953 homicides committed that year, 11,101 were committed using a gun; almost 70% of the total. And not surprisingly, of those 11,101 gun-related homicides, more than half (An6,371) were committed using a handgun. And though exact figures are not exactly available, a general estimates indicates that some 90% percent of murders are committed with stolen guns.

As a result, it is likely just a matter of time before citizens see the value in biometric and smart gun technology. Anything that can ensure that only an owner can use a firearm will go a long way to curbing crime, accidents, and acts of senseless and unmitigated violence.

Sources: cnet.com, theverge.com, (2), wired.com, (2), msnbc.com, gunpolicy.com

3-D Printed Guns: Congress Ready to Extend the Ban

3D_printed_weaponsEarlier this month, mere days before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, Congress began proposing to extend a ban placed plastic firearms capable of evading metal detectors and X-ray machines. Narrowly beating a midnight deadline on Monday, Dec. 9th, the ban was extended for a period of ten years, though efforts to strengthen the restrictions were narrowly blocked by Congressional Republicans.

This was a bittersweet moment for advocates of gun control, but the implications of this decision go beyond the desire to not see another school shooting take place. With the growth of 3-D printing technology and fears that guns could be created using open-source software and store bought printers, preemptive measures were seen as necessary. Simply shutting down Distributed Defense’s website seemed insufficient given the interest and ease of access.

Cody-Wilson-Defense-Distributed-Wiki-Weapon-3-d-printed-gunBans on plastic and undetectable firearms were first passed during the administration of Ronald Reagan, and have been renewed twice – first in 1998 and again in 2003. But such weapons have become a growing threat and due to 3-D printing, which are becoming better and more affordable. And though public access is still limited to weapons made from ABS plastic, it may be only a matter of time before something more sophisticated becomes available.

However, advocates of gun control emphasize that this extension contains two key defeats. For starters, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s desire to strengthen the ban by requiring that such weapons contain undetachable metal parts was blocked. In addition, the fact that the ban was extended for a ten-year period as is means it cannot be revisited and strengthened again in the near future.

3dmetalgun-640x353In this respect, the ban highlights a year of failure of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats to toughen gun laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. Despite this tragedy and other mass shootings – such as the one that took place at the Washington Naval Yard – and the fact that some 90% support tougher gun laws, it seems that pro-gun lobbyists and the NRA are destined to have their way for the time being.

In the meantime, we can only hope that industrial 3-D printing, which allows for objects to be created out of metal parts, does not become readily available to average citizens. The one saving grace of the 3-D printed gun is the fact that it is entirely composed of plastic, making it an ineffective (if undetectable) weapon. And here’s hoping 2014 sees a lot less violence and a lot more humanity!

Source: cbc.ca, huffingtonpost.com

Bulletproof Classrooms: Solution or Sign of the Times?

school_shootingsWith the recent upsurge in school shootings – 43 in the last three years, resulting in 76 and 64 injuries – its little wonder why various school-based options at are being explored. These range from more guns (arming teachers and administrators) to incorporating special alarms that would allow for high-speed response. But perhaps the most creative (albeit odd) response comes in the form of a bulletproofing a classroom.

Specifically, armored whiteboards and bulletin boards (known as “Safeboards”) are being proposed as a last line of defense against gunmen. Developed by the International Armoring Corporation – a Utah-based company that manufactures lightweight armored passenger vehicles for heads of state, celebrities, and even the Pope – these boards are unobtrusive classroom objects that double as bulletproof barriers.
safeboard1In the event of a shooting, a teacher could manually slide and lock them in front of a door within a few seconds. Another version folds away from the wall to create a classroom safe haven that could fit up to 37 average-sized first graders. The Safeboards are capable of resisting the bullets of high-powered rifles, like those used in a number of school shootings in recent years.

The company began developing the product last year before the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut took place. After a few school officials near IAC’s headquarters heard about how the company manufacture lightweight armor for protective vehicles, they asked if there were any affordable products that could improve safety in the event of a school shooting.

safeboard2Bulletproof doors already exist, but they expensive and are very heavy. This can be problematic since these doors still need to be used by children dozens of times a day. According to IAC’s CEO Mark Burton, the sliding Safeboard, made with the firm’s standard lightweight material, starts at $1,850 and is light enough that it can be open and closed even by children.

Though no purchases have been made yet, the risk management director of the David School District of Utah (home to some 70,000 students), a school architect and a police liaison witnessed a demonstration of the technology. The district has already upgraded its alarms and camera systems, but director Scott Zigich, indicated that additional measures are being weighed:

Just this week [the country] had a shooting at an airport, a shooting at a school, a shooting at a mall. We are very active in trying to increase the safety level of our students and employees due to the frequent nature of violent attacks.

hardwireThe state of Utah and IAC are hardly alone on this issue. Earlier this year, another company in Maryland responded to the need for added security by developing small armored whiteboards that would act more like individual shields. Here, the company behind the design is Hardwire, whose product is already being featured at the Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin, Maryland.

Interestingly enough, these whiteboards use the same light material that is used by company to protect military vehicles from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, many schools have come to see the issue of gun violence in terms of guerrilla warfare, and are responding accordingly. According to Hardwire CEO George Tunis:

[The Whiteboards] basically take handguns out of the equation. We can certainly make them to stop any threat in the world, but what we wanted was something handheld for the teachers.

SchoolShootingsFor some time, a debate has raged around the United States, especially in the wake of Sandy Hook shooting. At its core is the question of what constitutes appropriate defensive measures for schools in a society where guns are easy for almost anyone to obtain. And some schools have considered armed guards or even armed teachers.

However, people like Mark Burton believes guns as a defense weapon often do more harm than good in schools, and considers the Safeboard to be a less disruptive and cost-effective measure that could give a classroom under siege needed time until police arrive. For budget-strapped schools, the decision is a financial issue as well as a safety one.

school_shootings1Over the lifetime of the product, Burton claims a Safeboard would cost as little as $5 a student, and IAC will also offer a financing program. But ultimately, its about finding ways to deal with the issue that doesn’t involve escalation. As Burton explained:

This is whole new territory. It’s kind of a fine line to walk. It is a sensitive issue, but in some cases, I think it could save lives.

And in the end, one has to wonder, are armored classrooms the only recourse to arming teachers and administrators? Is the issue of gun control really so elusive and untouchable that Americans must choose between more armor or more weapons in schools? What does it take to protect our children without treating our classrooms like they are warzones?

Sources: fastcoexist.com, www.wjla.com

People Shooting at You: There’s an App For That!

gun-firing

If the collapse of gun legislation in the US concerns you, fear not! Computer engineers at Vanderbilt University have developed a lightweight module that works in combination with a smartphone. This device, which about the size of a pack of cards, can pick up the “sonic signature” of a gun going off, and then sense shockwaves from the bullet. It sends the combined information to an Android phone, where it is plotted on a map.

So if you’re on the street and find yourself caught in the middle of a gang war, or are just randomly targeted by a sniper or gunman on a psychotic break, you will be able to pinpoint where the bullets are coming from. This should come in handy if you plan on returning fire. But if you’re planning on sitting tight and letting the police handle it, that’s good too. Chances are, they’ll have their own units on them, as will soldiers.

gang_violence

The device is essentially a commercialized version of military technology under development by DARPA. And aside from ordinary citizens, it’s likely to be picked up for use by bodyguards and the police. Earlier versions were tested with the US armed forces, but the team has since developed two versions of the device, one for commercial use that requires four units to located where a shooter is coming, and the militarized version that requires only two.

These and other subsequent versions are likely to be incorporated into all Future Force Warrior designs, giving soldiers the ability to detect where snipers and enemy combatants are shooting at them from. These are likely to come handy in densely populated areas, or in areas where insurgents and guerrillas constitute the majority of enemy combatants – as has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan.

ghost_recon_future_soldier-1920x1080

Granted, a far easier solution would solution would be to get the guns off the streets. But seeing as how that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, due in large part to the powerful pro-gun lobby in Washington, people may want to invest in some of these boxes. After all, if there’s a lesson in the most recent deadlock, it is that citizens have the right to protect themselves. This way, they can do so without having to buy a hand gun, assault weapon, or body armor!

Source: fastcoexist.com

Thoughts On The Recent Tragedy…

https://i1.wp.com/fondmir.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/mir.jpgFor days I’ve been wondering what I could say, or even if I should say, anything about the recent tragedy that took place in a small school in Connecticut. Many of my friends were speaking out on this atrocity almost immediately after it happened, offering their condolences and speaking out against the issue of gun violence and the need for tighter gun control measures. I was sure to be there to add my voice to theirs however I could.

When something terrible happens, its only natural to want to speak out. But when its a symptom of a larger problem, people need to speak out. It’s not enough that a “conspiracy of silence” can allow these things to continue unabated, but the prevalence of people out there who will try to exploit it for their own ends also makes it that much more necessary.

But until now, I’ve remained silent as far as my own site was concerned. Somehow, writing about didn’t seem appropriate. The words just wouldn’t come. But as the days went on, a number of things began to urge me to do something. As if the shooting in Newton CT wasn’t enough, another shooting take place at a mall in Clackamas Oregon, killing two people and wounding a third before taking his own life.

My sister, I should note, lives in Oregon and I immediately wrote to her to make sure she was okay. After confirming that she was nowhere near the incident and none of her friends were either, I breathed a slight sight of relief, but it didn’t last. Somehow, with all the violence taking place in 2012 alone, I began to wonder when the hell people were going to decide they’d had enough!

So let me be frank. The United States suffered through one of the worst mass shootings in its history on Dec. 14th 2012. Not only did the senseless act of violence lead to the deaths of 28 people, most of them children, this event occurs amidst a backdrop of violent crime which is spiraling out of control. To illustrate this trend, consider some of the following facts:

  • 16 mass shootings have taken place in 2012 already, resulting in the deaths of least 88 people dead and untold numbers  wounded and psychologically scarred for life.
  • In the vast majority of shooting sprees that took place between 1982 to 2012, the killers obtained their guns legally.
  • An average of 10,000 people die ever year from gun-related violence in the US.
  • From 1976 to 2004, the number of homicides in the US committed using handguns outnumbers all other forms of homicide combined
  • Of the 142 mass shootings to take place in the last 30 years, 103 involved a semi-automatic handgun or an assault weapon

Sources: Citizens Crime Commission of NYC, Mother Jones.com, The Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia (Gun violence in the US)

However, despite the obviousness of this problem and the availability of information that makes it abundantly clear that access to  guns is a major problem, any and all attempts to push forward with gun control measures have been hampered. It’s gotten to the point where liberals and advocates have thrown up their hands and have all but admitted defeat, citing lobbyists, special interests and partisan obstruction for the failure to get even basic legislation passed.

But, as it happens, this may be the one good thing to come from this tragedy. After going to Avaaz.com and starting a petition to ban hang guns and assault weapons, I noticed from a friend of mine the White House already had such a petition going. As it turns out, it is the largest petition they’ve had to date, breaking all records for most number of signatures. Apparently, American citizens are demanding, in record numbers, that the Obama administration do something about gun violence in America.

At times like this, it feels weird to look for a silver lining, best to just acknowledge the tragic circumstances and offer condolences. But considering that the issue might finally come to a head and future tragedies like this and other such shootings could be prevented… well, that gives me hope! And it makes me want to ditch my previous efforts to hold my tongue and speak from the heart, let everybody know where I stand and hope they will join me in this!

I know I speak for more than just myself when I offer my condolences to all the families in Newton, Connecticut who lost someone they hold dear. I can only hope that their deaths weren’t in vain, and that the tragedy has finally sent the message home that something needs to be done and there are rights more important and sacrosanct than the 2nd Amendment. And to all the victims of gun violence, rest in peace and know that you are not forgotten! This fight will not be over until we get the last of the guns out of the hands of psychos and the madness of the gun culture is finally reigned in!

Peace!

Here’s a link to the Whitehouse Petition for those who are interested: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition

And if you feel like signing two, here’s the Avaaz one I started: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition