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3D Printer Gun May Be Just The Beginning Of Law Enforcement Nightmare

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Print print, bang bang.

Someday soon, making your your own firearms at home may just be that easy, thanks to the advent of 3D printers.

While industrial models have been around for some time, steadily dropping prices are bringing them increasingly within reach of home users. In fact, many predict the printers -- which essentially push molten plastic through a nozzle in layer after layer -- will eventually become as common in homes as today's inkjet printers.

University of Toronto student Daniel Southwick may be the first Canadian to make a gun using a 3D printer, according to the Toronto Star.

While the gun has been disabled so that it can't shoot printed bullets, that capacity can easily be turned on, Southwick told the newspaper.

The U of T team's homemade firearm isn't the first to be spawned from a 3D printer. In fact, it's patterned after The Liberator -- a printable gun created by Texas law student and anarchist Cody Wilson last fall. The Liberator's design is freely available online.

It's among a dizzying array of downloadable schematics -- everything from guitars to masks to platform shoes.

Recently, a one-legged duck was given a fresh appendage with a little help from a 3D printer. Humans may also be able to benefit from printable bones. Yes, bones.

The only limit to this revolutionary technology, it seems, is our imagination.

And therein lies the question. How far will home-based 3D printers be allowed to roam?

Will plastic guns need to be licensed and registered, like their metal counterparts?

Or will future printers be sold with 'lockdown' technology that essentially blocks the hardware from producing potentially dangerous items?

In any case, the Do-It-Yourself crowd's growing fervor for 3D printing also represents a difficult quandary for law enforcement.

Already, the original Liberator design is being tweaked and upgraded by enthusiasts.

“It’ll be a judgment call for a criminal if they want to use the Liberator,” Cody Wilson told the Globe and Mail. “There are already plans online for a submachine gun made from parts available at a hardware store.”

As the Globe goes on to suggest, the burgeoning technology "is on the verge of making current policing approaches obsolete."

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