The arrest of a man who printed several pistols has prompted the Japanese government to call for laws restricting 3D printers with uncharacteristic swiftness.
Kanagawa police recently arrested a 28-year-old university employee for illegally possessing firearms, after a raid on his home uncovered 5 “gun-like” objects, 2 of which were judged capable of firing lethal rounds – although no ammunition or the means to make any were uncovered.
He had made all the pieces using a 3D printer, having brought himself to police attention by helpfully uploading videos of his handiwork online.
He also made a variety of pronouncements online describing gun ownership as a basic human right:
“Japan’s weakest should arm themselves. When someone threatens you next, tell him you’ll blow him away!”
“For emergency usage people should forget about the gun control law, and make sure they know how to make their own gun.”
“Japan is violating our human rights by not allowing gun ownership for self defence purposes.”
“Gun ownership is a basic human right and even if the Swords and Firearms Control Law cannot be abolished, anyone will be able to make one themselves with the dissemination of gun plans for 3D printers.”
3D printed firearms – widely espoused by a certain subset of gun crazed Americans – are still regarded as dangerously poor quality, but improvements in their design and 3D printing technology are likely to result in drastic improvements in their effectiveness.
The menacing prospect of Japanese other than police, soldiers, hunters and yakuza having access to firearms prompted the Japanese cabinet to call for new laws restricting the ownership of 3D printers, with the National Public Safety Commission’s chairman having this to say:
“This is a new type of crime. We fear repeat occurrences of similar incidents, and present laws do not fully cover cases like this. Both police and those concerned need to consider further measures.”
Police have pointed out that 3D printer sales in Japan are unregulated and even if sales were subject registration anyone could buy them through an intermediary, hampering efforts to pinpoint those behind the printing – much like the dangers conventional printers pose to the security of the currency, perhaps.
Gun control specialists in Japan have warned that 3D printing “threatens the basis of our domestic gun control” and say “restrictions must be considered” to prevent the profusion of printed firearms.
Online there has been as much alarm at the reaction of authorities as there has at news of the original arrest:
“These old fools don’t understand anything but how to ban things.”
“Without any bullets this is just so much plastic junk.”
“Just ban making dangerous objects. With their logic sales of color printers capable of producing fake bank notes should be restricted too.”
“You can make a gun with a lathe. With no ammo circulating in Japan I don’t see the problem.”
“Wait for a ban on agricultural chemicals which can make explosives and metalworking tools. It is unfair not to.”
“PCs can be used to produce all kinds of viruses. We should restrict their sale too.”
“Since they keep banning everything new here it is not surprising we lag in innovation.”
“The American government is busy promoting their 3D printing industry whilst ours is about to ban it. Talk of the next Google or Apple being Japanese makes me laugh.”
“Amazing that with all the issues they ignore or suppress, this is the one problem that gets an immediate response.”
“What are they so worried about? A revolt?”
“Just arrest the people who use them to make illegal weapons. No need for a new law at all.”
“Why does this stupid country keep banning everything…”