The US is in the midst of a heated gun control debate and the Obama administration is pushing several proposals aimed at curbing gun violence. Aside from seemingly insurmountable political challenges, the plans could also be undermined by advances in 3D printer technology.
In what can be considered brilliant yet awful timing, Austin-based Defense Distributed recently posted a video showing off a 3D-printed 30-round clip in action, Business Insider reports. The printed mag was displayed in an AR series assault rifle, but it's worth noting that the AR series uses standard NATO STANAG magazines, which means the printed magazine is compatible with a wide range of 5.56x45mm weapons used around the world.
The implications of using 3D printers to churn out rifle magazines are profound. One of the key proposals in the gun control debate is a ban on high capacity assault rifle magazines, which could now be circumvented by anyone with access to a decent 3D printer and a few CAD files. Such a ban would be practically impossible to enforce.
Of course, the government could outright ban the manufacture of 30-round magazines, but such a ban would be rather pointless, as the necessary technology is already there and criminals don't usually follow the letter of the law.
3D printers have been used in the past to print certain handgun parts and even entire handguns, with mixed results. However, printing a simple magazine is not exactly as demanding as printing a 9mm barrel. The technology works and it can't be un-invented.