Yesterday, a Japanese man was sentenced to two years in prison for manufacturing 3D-printed guns. Yoshitomo Imura, a 28-year-old from Kawasaki, was arrested in May after posting a video of himself assembling his very illegal firearm to YouTube, which probably wasn’t the best idea on his part.
The right to bear DIY weaponry is still a contentious issue in most of the world. But if guns are illegal in your country—as they mostly are in Japan—then it makes sense that the law isn’t suddenly going to side with you when you decide to have a crack at making one in your garage. Imura appears to be the first person in the world to receive a prison sentence for making 3D-printed guns.
Cops all over the world have been on the lookout for such weapons. British police seized what they believed to be gun components last year before it was revealed that the items were actually probably just parts for the printer itself, leaving the internet to make plenty of jokes at the officers’ expense. Under UK law, buying, owning, or creating a 3D-printed gun could land you up to a decade behind bars, so it’s not a topic to be taken too lightly.
Here in the US, where the whole movement kicked off, it’s legal for individuals to manufacture firearms for personal use without a license (except for certain types of guns in certain jurisdictions). Certain restrictive measures have been put forward—such as a proposed renewal to the Undetectable Firearms Act that would criminalize production of firearm magazines and receivers that don’t include a certain amount of metal—but have been shunned as transparent attempts to stifle the use of 3D printers in home gunsmithing.
All that means that Defense Distributed, the Texan company that produced “the Liberator,” the first-ever 3D-printed gun, can go about their business. Motherboard made a documentary about Cody R. Wilson, director of Defense Distributed, last year, which you can watch above. The nonprofit organization says it operates “exclusively for charitable, religious, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes.” I’m not certain how guns can be used for charitable, religious, or literary purposes, but if such purposes exist I'm sure they can be found only in America.
While the Liberator can only hold one bullet at a time, Imura’s model, christened “the Zigzag,” can load six. And although he’s going to spend the next 24 months in a cell, the blueprints for the weapon are public, meaning anyone can get them and start producing their own DIY firearms. I’ll let you decide whether that’s a libertarian dream or a nightmare.
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