Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 7

Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.
         - Molly Ivins


I bought my first letter quality computer printer in 1988.

Personal computers were not very common then, at least ownership of business grade machines, home computing was just getting started.

I had recently sold my first “real” computer, an IBM PC/XT, and upgraded to a new, more powerful Z-248, a huge behemoth of a 80286-based processor with a genuine VGA color display system that was only available to government employees and members of the military through a special government purchase program direct from Zenith.

And I decided that I needed a professional quality printer to go with it.

The personal computer printer market back then was pretty gruesome, choices were limited and none of them were good. 

There was dot-matrix, which sounded like endless yards of tearing cloth (unless you also sprung for a huge monstrosity of an insulated sound-box) and reams of tractor-fed fanfold paper – every wastebasket in the 80’s was filled with eleven inch long perforated strips of paper, because that’s all you did, tear off the tractor-feed strips. That’s where all the forests went, tractor-feed strips, endless, endless miles of them.  Inevitably the paper feeder would jam about every third page or so on those cheap printers, but the dumb machine would doggedly just keep on grinding away, szzzzzzzzrrrrip! Szzzzzrrrrip! Szzzzzrrriiiiiiiip. They called them tractor-feed for a reason, and if you didn’t catch the jam in time the idiot machine would relentlessly wad an entire box of paper into the stalled feed rollers like a Russian battle tank grinding inexorably through an Afghan village.  Each page started out with blackish letters that gradually faded to a kind of plum-tinted gray as the ink ribbon wore out. And on the cheap 9-pin models the only available font was best described as "a cluster of spots resembling the tracks of a drunken housefly that had recently crawled through fresh dog shit."

If you didn’t want tractor-feed, well, there were Daisy-Wheel printers and Element-Ball printers, both of which were descended from a bastard mating between a typewriter and a one-lung Harley-Davidson. They were loud, clunky, expensive, and charitably described as hideously slow.  Not to mention that they were extremely difficult to interface with.  See, in those heady days of PC-DOS, in the Paleolithic pre-USB world of serial cables, each program had to have its own printer driver, not the operating system, the program itself, and so while you might be able to pipe ASCII text directly to the COM1 port and get a generic dot-matrix printer to hammer out unformatted text, your word processor, which was likely Word Star or Electric Pencil, might not be able to speak to a Daisy-Wheel printer at all – unless you had a specialized piece of software from the manufacturer made specifically for your particular equipment.  And there wasn’t any Internet you could go download drivers from either, you had to order them, from the manufacturer, via written letter with an enclosed check, and then wait six weeks for the floppy disk to arrive via ox cart. Oh, it was a glorious primitive time, back in the wild wooly 80’s!  (And just for added fun, I was living in the island nation of Iceland at the time, and the fastest form of communication was the only vaguely reliable military postal system – which 99.9999999% of computer manufacturers would not ship to, no matter what. Period).

I really wanted a laser printer, but in 1980’s those were commercial products roughly the size of a mini-fridge, bulky, temperamental, prone to catastrophic jamming and bizarre formatting problems, requiring knowledge of specialized programming languages such as PCL and an innate understanding that what you saw on the screen would in no way whatsoever resemble what would eventually appear on the printed page.  Not to mention that a cheap laser printer was about eight grand beyond my price range.

And then HP came out with the Deskjet.

Laser quality printing without the laser. Inkjet technology had been around for a couple of years in industrial settings, but the Deskjet brought it down to the (mostly) affordable home market.

I bought one of the first five hundred units made by Hewlett-Packard via a money order for $999 (Plus S&H).

I had to order it directly from the company and have it shipped to a friend in the states who then shipped it to me via the APO/FPO system. When all was said and done, that printer cost me about $1200, give or take.

And it was well worth it.

It was whisper quiet and it printed crisp black Times New Roman letters on high quality paper that looked even better than the output from top end laser printers. I loved that printer. I still have it, in the original box, in a storeroom in the basement.

Back then, I was the envy of every techno-geek that I knew.  I owned the only affordable personal laser quality printer in the entire nation of Iceland (Ok, it was a small country, but, damnit, I was a god. A god of nerds, sure, still… I’m just staying. A God).

There were, however, some problems.

The ink wasn’t exactly permanent.  Get it wet and it smudged and smeared and ran. Damp fingers would do it.  Sneeze on a printout and your text would end up looking like it had a case of the measles.  And it was slow, not Daisy-Wheel slow, but slow, the specs said four pages per minute but it was more like two pages a minute, on a good day.  It was supposed to hold a hundred sheets of paper, but it would jam if you loaded the paper tray higher than seventy-five. It didn’t like cheap paper, you had to spring for the good stuff. And it went through ink cartridges at a ferocious rate.

Despite that, the Deskjet Model 1 was damned cool gadget for its time.

A year later HP came out with an upgrade, the Model II. I didn’t buy one of those, but in 1989 they released the Deskjet 500. Then the 550. Then the 550C, the first color version that would print pictures – that I bought.  And I didn’t have to order it from the factory, they sold it right in regular stores, like diapers and toothbrushes and frozen waffles.

In less than five years the technology of ink-jet printers went from primitive to fully mature, from four pages a minute in draft mode to twelve pages a minute in laser quality mode.  From black and white to photographic-quality full color.  From $1000 to $200.

And now?

Twenty years later and I own a commercial grade office “document center,” a photo quality color laser printer that can crank out a hundred double-sided pages per minute in full waterproof glossy color indistinguishable from the pages of National Geographic. It’s also a high-speed high-density scanner, duplex collating copier, fax machine, and data storage device with onboard processing, it’s networked via a broadband Gigabit wireless interface running an encrypted internet connection that I can print to from anywhere in the world via any device including my phone, it holds four full reams of paper – and it cost me less than my first HP Deskjet (not a lot less, mind you, but a bit less anyway).

And there’s nothing particularly unique about it, the technology is ubiquitous, anybody can own one, it requires no god-like specialized knowledge to setup or operate.


Yeah, yeah I hear you say in that voice you use when your eyes are starting to glaze over in a technobabble coma, thanks for that trip down the dusty forgotten dead ends of Memory Lane, Nerd Boy, what’s your point?


My point?


I’m just wondering at the state of the art.

The current state of the art, the one that includes relatively primitive 3D Printer technology.   Technology that was designed to produce cheap plastic prototypes and one-off designs. Technology that predictably is now being used to crank out single use disposable handguns.

At the moment those printers are clunky and slow.  The weapons, and other products they produce, are little better than a homemade zipgun and just about as accurate.  Anybody who actually tries to fire one these things, outside of a testing lab under very specific safety protocols, is putting themselves at risk of serious injury and/or death. 

At eight grand for a cheap 3D Printer, they’re a bit beyond the average consumer – but only a bit, and only for the next very few years.

And by now you have, of course, figured out what this essay is really about and you, like me, are wondering just where that technology will be in, oh, say, twenty years.

Twenty years?

Scratch that, make it five.

Very likely in much less than five years, inexpensive 3D printer technology will be able to rapidly  produce on-demand fully serviceable, reliable, accurate, and cheap handguns. 

And it will be available to basically anybody, you, me, kids, the sane and insane, criminals and terrorists and gang lords, anti-government types of all political persuasions, the Occupy Movement, your local militia in their raggedy-assed camouflage, angry loners itching for attention, seething psychotics under the lash of their pet demons, scorned crazy ex-girlfriends and abusive drunken wife-beating husbands.


And won’t that be fun?

Oh, and those plastic guns? They will also have the added benefit of being undetectable, untraceable, and disposable. 

See they were designed to be that way, available to anybody and undetectable without expensive sophisticated scanning equipment – like the body scanners employed by the TSA in our airports, i.e. equipment beyond the range of most police departments, businesses, and school districts.

See, that’s the whole idea.

The “printable” gun you’ve heard so much about in the press lately, was designed by a guy named Cody Wilson. He’s the founder and director of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and distribution of open source templates for the 3D private manufacture of guns, so-called Wiki Weapons. Wilson is a Texan, and law student at the UT School of Law, he’s also a self-described crypto-anarchist.

If you don’t know what that is, a crypto-anarchist, it’s most accurately described as a Big L government-hating Libertarian, a guy who embodies the mindset of eugenics, i.e. survival of the fittest and to hell with everybody else else. 

So far Wilson has complied with US law at every step of his design process, up to and including getting a Federal Firearms License and removing his designs from Defense Distributed’s website following a cease and desist order from the State Department- not that the take-down actually matters in any fashion whatsoever at this point. The designs are out there and they’ll never be erased.

As I mentioned, Wilson is not big on government, any government.  If reports are accurate he apparently embraces the ultra-libertarian idea that all people are sovereign unto themselves (at least those strong enough and mean enough anyway, the rest, the weak, the unfit, according to libertarian philosophy are sheep fit only for slaughter or slavery). He believes that government should be no larger than community sized and disposable whenever you don’t agree with it.

Wilson has publically stated that he believes any human being should be able to possess any weapon of any kind at any time – up to and including weapons of war, including nukes.  If you’re familiar with Vernor Vinge’s Peace War universe novella, The Ungoverned, Wilson sounds a whole lot like an Armadillo (and if you don’t know what the hell I’m on about here, don’t sweat it).

The basic idea behind Wilson’s printable gun, the Liberator (named for the cheap handguns air-dropped by the WWII Allies to the resistance in Occupied France), is to make guns so easy to manufacture, so easily available and so widely available, that any human being can access them at any time – even being able print disposable guns out at will whenever and wherever they want. Kids, criminals, you, me, everybody.


Very likely, given the probable course of the technology’s development, the relentless and hectic pace of Moore’s Law or one of its many variations practically guarantees Wilson’s vision of the future will at least in some regards come true. It’s nearly inevitable at this point.


Now, home manufacture of guns is nothing new.  Any competent machinist with a decently equipped metal shop and few basic milling machines can build a far more accurate, more powerful, and far safer weapon than Wilson’s pathetic plastic pea-shooter.  Likely they can’t do it more cheaply, but that’s just a quibble. Before gun manufactures and their various pet legislators flooded the streets of America with cheap and widely available handguns, criminals and thugs used to make their own homemade zipguns on a regular basis. 

But to do it well does take specialized knowledge and a particular skill.

3D printing doesn’t.  Using Wilson’s free open source template and the increasingly cheap and available printer, anybody can make a single use, untraceable, throwaway gun. 

If you can operate a smart phone and plug in a TV, you can make a gun with about as much effort as it takes to download and print out a recipe for tuna casserole.

And that’s the thing.  Right there.

3D Printers use technology adapted directly from inkjet printers and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machines. Using a three dimensional electronic blueprint, they build up fine layers of plastic one on top of the other.  They can create infinitely complex shapes far easier and with much less waste than standard injection-molding or heated vacuum-forming techniques allow.  The current state of the art means that the 3D printer doesn’t produce a finished product when creating a complex device like a gun, rather it makes each individual component and a human being assembles those into the final machine.  Future generations will likely make complete products, ready for use.

The technology is exciting. Beyond guns, it is being used to literally transform manufacturing – and more, much more. For example: scientists have used 3D printing technology on a limited basis to actually make human body parts.  In a decade or two, very likely we will be able to literally print out replacement organs, literally printing with living cells.

Ironic, isn’t it? That the same technology that one day may preserve and extend human life is being used right now to make tools for ending it? 

Ironic that a guy with Cody Wilson’s talent would rather spend his days creating tools to destroy human life instead of making it immortal?

But I digress. The irony of people like Cody Wilson no longer surprises me, thus is the perverse nature of so-called libertarians.


Just like the evolution of text printers, within a few short years, cheap 3D printers will be able to use a variety of raw materials, not just plastic, to create complex and durable goods – including much more advanced weapons.

But that’s the nature of technology.

All technology, all of it, embodies both benefit and bane.

It’s how we choose to use technology that makes the difference.

And you can’t put the Djinni back into the bottle. 

The technology is out there in the public domain and it is too useful, too exciting, too valuable, too empowering, too laden with possibility and promise, to abandon. 

It can not be suppressed, even if that’s actually what we wanted – which we don’t.

With less money than I bought my first inkjet printer for, I can build myself a 3-axis CNC milling machine that will precisely sculpt wood and plastic in my workshop to an accuracy in the sub-millimeter range.  For a double that, I could build myself a 3D printer accurate enough to produce Cody Wilson’s Liberator.  Of course, being a professionally trained gunsmith, I could make a much better weapon without benefit of CNC/Printer technology, and for less money, and it wouldn’t blow up in your hand on the second shot. But I could only make one at a time, and I couldn’t teach you how to do it without a lot of effort.

But I could build you a printer, and then with the right raw materials you can make all the guns you like. 

And if I can do it, anybody can.

There has been talk of safeguards, i.e. forcing 3D printer manufacturers to include a software block that prevents the machine from making gun parts or certain shapes.  Won’t work. Can’t work. Total waste of effort. The mere suggestion shows a complete lack of comprehension with regard to the actual situation. Any teenager can jailbreak an iPhone or bypass their parents’ nannyware with ease. Any shade-tree mechanic can hack the chip in their truck.  Chinese, Iranians, and Anonymous burn through their government’s firewalls with impunity – and the only way to prevent it is to squat in the Dark Ages like North Korea.  DRM is a joke, as is the utterly ineffective regional encoding on DVDs.  Any blocked software will either be circumvented in short order or erased and replaced with easily available freeware – if you don’t know how to do it, just ask any random fourteen year old. 

Mandating software blocks is a complete waste of time.

So what am I saying here?

That homemade plastic guns are an inevitability?


That’s exactly what I’m saying.

You can’t put the Djinn back in the bottle. 

However, will the proliferation of printed guns make the world any more dangerous than it is now? I mean really?

Probably not.

Not really.

Hell, last week in Kentucky a five year old boy shot his two year old sister to death with a rifle he received as a present for his birthday.  Five years old and he got a 22 caliber rifle for his birthday.  And the rifle was apparently kept loaded and unlocked without any form of safety or child control, leaning up against the wall in the family’s dinning room.  When the mother looked away “for just a moment” the kid naturally picked up the rifle and shot his sister. Authorities called it an “accident.”  Speaking as a certified firearms instructor, there’s nothing accidental about this incident at all. There’s nothing surprising about it any way, shape, or form. Anyone with even a modicum of experience around children and/or guns could have told you exactly what was going to happen.

These people left two children and a loaded gun together in the same room.

That’s not an accident, that’s negligent homicide, manslaughter, pure and simple.  

The parents however won’t be prosecuted.

Because there’s no law against leaving your kid and your loaded gun unattended in the same room (though, personally, I think a clever prosecutor could make a case of child endangerment). 

Shit happens.

Dead kids are just the price you pay for freedom, right? Right?

The following comments appeared under a Yahoo! News article about the shooting. I can’t find the link again, so you’ll just have to take my word for it without the reference:

This isn't a gun case, it's a parenting case. I wouldn't leave my 5 year old alone with a bottle of bleach, either. The only reason this made news is to brainwash the masses. If the child had drunk a bottle of bleach and died, it wouldn't have made the news. As for the mom, she made a mistake, as all parents do, and she'll pay dearly for it for the rest of her life, having lost her baby.

Mom made a mistake. Shit happens.  Kids die. That’s freedom. Just don’t let it affect me.

I have to wonder if the author of that comment would feel the same way if the five year old had been pointing his gun at their children.  Let’s ask the parents of Sandy Hook, shall we?

...and thousands more people die from car accidents....want to take autos away too?

No. But as I explained in the first installment of this series, I do want autos regulated, and registered, and the operators required to have training and to be held accountable.  And when they demonstrate an astounding level of negligence, especially when that negligence results in the death of other human beings, I want their right to own and operate a vehicle terminated, period.  I want them held accountable.

Now, why should a gun be different from a car?

Because a gun is designed to kill people, shouldn’t we hold gun ownership to a higher standard?

If not, why not?

Yes, rule # 1 is make sure all firearms are unloaded, but people make mistakes. So you want to lock the parents up so the 5 year old is an orphan? Great idea, lets just lock everyone up who makes mistakes, its not like our jails are overcrowded or anything.


Folks, this was an "accident". You know accident's can happen. I look at intent, knowone wanted this to happen. The article stated, the gun was NOT supposed to be loaded. The guilt will be enough punishment. I don't believe in locking everyone up.


Too bad that so many are making negative remarks about the parents. This is not a time to do this. I agree that the parents were wrong in giving the child a gun and for not keeping it locked up. So sorry for the family and friends, this is tragig.

Funny thing, the same folks who are staunchly pro-gun, and are consequently willing to dismiss this incident as a mistake, are very often the very same people who declare themselves pro-life and are perfectly willing to lock up abortion doctors – or shoot them..  Why is the life of a fetus in the belly of a liberal worth more passion and effort than the life of a child killed by gun violence (and no, I don’t, in fact, know if the commenters are actually pro-life, I’m asking a question based on well-established demographic statistics.  Ask around any NRA convention, see how many pro-choice types you find. There you go).

Why are these same people willing to dismiss the shooting of hundreds of children per year as “accidents” and the unavoidable result of freedom, but not do the same for Benghazi?

Hey, I’m just asking.

You have to look at intent. Their was none. Accidents happen all the time, (car accidents, gun accidents etc..) That is the way life goes. The gun was not supposed to be loaded. We can all learn to be more careful, but bad things are still going to happen sometimes. [sic]

Oh, well, a learning experience. Well, that makes it okay, I guess.  Intent. That’s what matters. Bad things happen. Just like drunk driving.  Or that abortion doctor and his house of horrors. Or Benghazi. Or handing your kid, the one with Asperger's and a behavioral disorder, the combination to your gun safe. Again, let’s ask the Sandy Hook parents how they feel about their  learning experience, see how much comfort it gives them.

Obama wants gun control - what about parent control? We don't need more laws, we need more citizens with armed with common sense who are responsible.

Ah, the wishful thinking solution to gun violence.  That’ll be helpful.  If only people weren’t irresponsible. If only.

Maybe we could pray for a pony too while we’re at it, a magic pony that can fly and shoot rainbows out of its ass.

So what. The mother has already broken the law just as if she let her 2-year old unattended by the swimming pool -- she is guilty of gross negligence in the care of her kids. So what is this article all about -- the story of a moron mother or another ultra liberal attempt to push their anti-2nd Amendment agenda using any means possible? Let's just take advantage of another tragedy by pulling on emotional strings. Hey you effete liberals, you wanna play big daddy to the max? Well,instead of taking guns away from law-abiding citizens maybe we should take kids away from moron parents. Better yet, we could sterilize all parents whose combined IQ scores are less than 200 (but that would wipe out a good amount of your voter base wouldn't it?).

So what? A five-year old killed a two-year old and obviously, obviously, it’s a liberal plot to take away our guns!

What exactly is the argument here? Gun ownership must be unrestricted, but reproduction? That’s fair game for regulation, right? We can’t stop crazy people from owning guns, but we can sterilize the ones we don’t think should have children.  If stupid people don’t have kids, kids won’t kill each other with guns. After all, the Constitution grants you the legal right to bear arms, but makes no mention of bearing children, does it? Is that about right?

Tell me again, who was it that used forced sterilization on people they deemed politically undesirable?  But Obama is the Nazi, right? 

Question: who decides?  Who decides who can have children and who can’t? This guy, the Yahoo commenter?

Color me slightly dubious here.

Why is it that those who repeatedly call for responsible gun ownership are so, so, very reluctant to actually put their money where their mouths are? In other words, don’t bother to tell me about responsible gun ownership if you’re not willing to enforce that idea by force of law. Could it be that they are not, in fact, responsible gun owners after all?


Folks, we need to stop asking “How damned stupid can you be?”  Some of these folks are taking it as a challenge.


In Detroit last week a teenager killed himself during a game of Russian Roulette.

Russian Roulette. Seriously, who does that?

In Oregon teachers were shocked and frightened damned near to death when two masked gunmen burst into a meeting at the school and started shooting. 

Turns out the whole thing was a setup by the school administration, the “shooters” were firing blanks and the idea was to … well, fuck, I’m not exactly sure what the idea was – unless it was to determine if any of the teachers were packing concealed heat like the NRA wants, because that would have been hysterical, right? When the armed teachers started shooting back I mean. With live rounds.  

You talk about a learning experience – here’s an abject example of why amateurs and fuzzy headed NRA gun droolers should be the very, very last people teaching school security or handling weapons around children.  Nobody with any professional experience in Tactical Survival Training would ever, and I mean ever, mix active shooter simulations with the possibility of live fire.  The use of simulated munitions, blanks, simunitions, must be in a carefully controlled and rigidly managed training environment – and yes, I have extensive personal experience in this area.  There’s no more egregious violation of basic weapons safety protocols than this incident. Whoever authorized this evolution is criminally stupid if not actually insane.

The number of ways this could have gone horribly wrong are too numerous to count.

Meanwhile, down Texas way, retired firefighter and all around bad neighbor, Raul Rodriguez, tried to use the state’s stand your ground law to get out of capital murder charges.  See, back in 2010, Rodriguez shot and killed Kelly Danaher, a thirty-six year old elementary teacher.  She was having a birthday party and Rodriguez didn’t like the noise. So he confronted Danaher and two men in Danaher’s driveway.  When the unarmed trio told Rodriguez to shove off, he called police and told the dispatcher, "my life is in danger now" and "these people are going to go try and kill me."

Then he declared, "I'm standing my ground here."

And then he went back to his neighbor’s house and shot the unarmed Danaher down in cold blood and wounded the other two men.

Then he bragged to his friends how he’d never be convicted because Texas has a Stand Your Ground law and as long as you kill the other guy, you’re home free.

To give the state of Texas its due, Rodriguez was convicted of murder and sentenced to forty years in prison last week – why he didn’t get life or even the Texas death penalty I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader. 

Advocates say that Stand Your Ground wasn’t intended as a free license to kill, but it seems not everybody got the word.

And as long as we’re in Texas, I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the NRA’s national convention of batshit bang bang craziness.

Even the annual Adult Video Awards Show in Las Vegas can’t hold a handful of sanitizing gel to the staggering amount of public masturbation, ejaculation of bodily fluids, copious drooling, and general ass buggery that a bunch of rednecks climaxing over a couple acres of guns generates.

They were all there too, all the crazy people who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a gun, all in the same room together. 

Glenn Beck wasted no time in invoking Hitler and the Nazis, beating the same old dead horse into rotten scraps while waving a rifle ala Charlton Heston over his head, raving on about shadowy conspiracies and the evil Obama.

Sarah Palin rode her favorite hobby horse around the stage, declaring that the elite lamestream media would never let a Republican president get away with what Barack Obama has done in his push for new gun laws – which is what again, exactly? Ask for a national dialog? Ooooh, that America hating bastard

Palin a longtime NRA member drew a standing ovation when she reminded the crowd that her son Trigg’s name is short for “trigger” (like the horse, I guess) and her new nephew’s middle name is Remington (probably in homage to William Remington, blacklisted liberal economist and designated by Tailgunner Joe McCarthy as a communist suspect. If I had to guess, I mean).

Ted Nugent predictably shit his pants in public, his comment aren’t worth repeating, you’ve heard them all before.

Wayne Lapierre engaged in his usual wackiness.

“They are coming after us with a vengeance to destroy us and every ounce of our freedom. It's up to us, every single gun owner, every American to get to work right now and meet them head-on."

LaPierre than declared that the recent background check legislation in Congress got the “defeat it deserved!”

Funny thing, though, the NRA used to be for background checks, but that was when a conservative Texan was in office. You know, right after a crazy man shot Ronald Reagan.  That’s different though, I guess.

Every opinion poll, every single one, shows that the vast majority of Americans, somewhere between seventy and eighty percent want tighter control over gun ownership – including background checks. 

There are roughly three hundred and fifty million Americans.,

There are about five million NRA members, about 70,000 of which showed up for the convention in Texas. 

That means the folks cheering LaPierre are a fraction of one percent of the population. But somehow they think they represent the rest of us. Then again, modern conservatives have never been good at math and science (or grammar and spelling) so I suppose the reasoning follows.

Be that as it may, the convention loudly cheered gridlock in Congress, and the resulting lack of any effort to address gun violence.

And nothing will be done, because nothing can be done.

I hate to say I told you so, but, well, I told you so.  I did.


And so, here we are. Back to where we started at the beginning of this series. 


Look out there, look upon the upturned wild-eyed fevered faces of the people waving their guns and cheering for Wayne LaPierre and tell me that you’re surprised. Look at the fact that these people, seventeen percent of Americans, fifty percent of Republicans, according to recent polls, think that armed revolution and overthrow of the United States government by force of arms is the only way to get what they think they want.  

You still think that some plastic gun will make the world any more insane, any more bang bang crazy?


So, what do we do?

Do we embrace the fatalistic NRA mindset?  I.e. dead kids, gun violence, random slaughter are just the price you pay for Freeeeeedom?

Do we give up? Do we just say fuck it, fire up the 3D Printers and open fire?

Do we march on Washington, waving our guns, and shoot down those we don’t agree with like some third world shithole and their revolution of the week? 

Do we end the argument by killing those we disagree with? Like Iran? Or Somalia? North Korea? The Soviet Union?

Is that what you want?

No, of course not.

What we do is talk about it, like rational adults. And there are far, far, far more of us, the rational ones, on both sides of the political spectrum than there are of the bang bang crazies.  If you need proof of that, look at the falling popularity of those senators who moved to obstruct discussion and debate last week.  My own cowardly asshat of a senator is one of them.  And he damned well lost my vote, if he won’t stand with his fellow Democrats in Congress he sure as hell can’t be trusted to stand with me

Now, I, like you I suspect, don’t really know if the failed legislation would have changed anything or not, whether it would have made the world safer. Whether or not it would have preserved our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms while keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people. I do find it hopeful that it was proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators, seems they can work together as rational adults when they want to.  I don’t know if it would have worked, but the legislative process of the United States government was blocked by a bunch of selfish, self-centered assholes who are more concerned about their own reelections than the safety of the people whom they are supposed to represent. 

Here’s what I do know for certain: our government was designed around conversation, around discussion, around compromise and debate – not on obstruction.  The Founding Fathers, who are so frequently invoked by the gun lobby, were a diverse and fractious lot. Some of them hated each other.  And yet, and yet, they managed to sit down and hammer out the compromise that eventually became the Constitution, the United States itself.

If they can do it, if they could do something so monumental as design a country from scratch, these petty jackasses should be able to handle something simple like background checks.

If you’re not willing to compromise your sacred beliefs in service of the country, then you have no business in government. Period.

If we can’t talk about it, about this and other difficult subjects, if we can’t talk about it in a rational and reasoned manner, we will never find the answers.

And we’d better start talking about it.

We’d better start figuring out how to deal with it.

Because sooner or later, likely sooner, those cheap shitty plastic guns are going to appear, they’re going to be made in bedrooms and basements and garages. And pretty soon after that, the advancing state of the art is going to ensure that anybody who wants one is going to be able to make basically any kind of weapon.  And by the time that happens, we’d damned well better know what to do about it.

Given the restive state of the nation, were I a member of congress I’d be making a real sincere effort to find solutions.

Because given the restive state of the nation, were I a member of congress, I’d be damned concerned about who those undetectable, untraceable, disposable plastic guns are likely to be pointed at.

We need to sit down now, right now, and figure out how to deal with the inevitable future.


Congress’s job is to hold the nation together, to preserve the union, to place country above party, courage above partisanship, to lead by example.

Their job is nothing less than to preserve the republic against the coming of night – not to tear it apart. That is the very essence of the oath they swore, the oath that I swore.

The truly ironic part of this whole thing is that if they were doing their jobs, there would be no market for those plastic guns in the first place.

It’s about time they wised up to the situation.




Addendum 1:  Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush
What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve  been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meyer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.


  1. The article linked in the line "In Seattle teachers were shocked and frightened damned near to death when two masked gunmen burst into a meeting at the school and started shooting" says the shooting happened in Halfway, Oregon, not Seattle. Otherwise, fantastic article as usual.

    1. Ah, that's because I first read about it in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Oops. I'll fix it, thanks for pointing it out.

    2. Wow, I rode my bike through Halfway years ago - a tiny town of about 300 in the middle of Nowhere, Eastern Oregon. It was a lovely place. Not easy for a town of 300 to host a group of 2000+ cyclists (Cycle Oregon), but they pulled it off. They've had some hard times with timber work declining, even changing the name of the town to Half.com for a year for an investment deal. Sad to see such a nice bunch of folks acting so damn stupid. Lucky no one was packing a weapon and took steps to protect the others in the room.

    3. Lucky no one had a heart attack and died. I'm sure several had to change their pants.

  2. I think you're overly optimistic on what small, cheap 3D printers will be able to do in the near future. I don't see them being able to print out a decent gun barrel any time soon, for example.

    However, they *can*, right now, print out a lower receiver. This is the part that, legally "is" the gun -- the part with the serial number on it. Everything else is spare parts -- which are unregulated.

    If the NRA's sponsors can do arithmetic, they'll want to keep the printers legal -- a pile of spare parts sells for more than the cost of a complete gun. In other words, they'll make more money from printed guns than they will from selling guns.

    For the foreseeable future, the "Liberator" will only be useful for the same purpose as its namesake -- kill somebody who has a gun and take it.

  3. I was a Computer/Communications Supervisor in the Air Force during the time you were talking about. Boy you brought back things that I had all but forgotten about.
    What ever happened to assume a gun is always loaded as rule number one in gun safety?
    Wait for the lawsuits that will be filed against the printer companies and blueprint designers as a result if death or injury by the people printing the guns. They might start lobbying for immunity like the gum manufacturers have.
    It never ceases to amaze me how some people bow to the will of a minority of extremist paranoids and profit driven shills and still have no problem facing the mothers and fathers of dead children that their actions failed to protect.
    Another great post though the stupidity of the whole situation is really starting to make me disrepair for all of us.

    1. Despair. (damn spellchecker) :)

    2. "What ever happened to assume a gun is always loaded as rule number one in gun safety? "

      I was taught that at age 8 at a YMCA sleep over camp firing range.

      It was repeated 12 years later at an Army BCT rifle range, it had been reinforced by an Air Force (WWII) vet of a father, between.

      It is not one of the NRA fire arm safety rules, much less the first one.

      Discovering that made me realize the NRA has no idea of what they are talking about.

    3. Just over 40 years ago I took the Hunter Safety Course given by the NRA; it was required before I could get a hunting license in California. Number One Rule: any gun, even one you watched being unloaded by someone else, is assumed to be loaded. You never put a gun away loaded. It is sad that what used to be an admirable organization has become just a lobbyist for the gun manufacturers.

  4. I suspect that if Paul Rodriguez had been named Joe Smith, or say, Cody Wilson, he would never have spent a day in jail. After all, this is Texas, the only state that is more batshit crazy than Arizona.

    1. Texas, the only state that is more batshit crazy than Arizona

      I'd agree with you, but then again I live in Alaska.

      If this post doesn't make people think, I mean really, really think of where we are going as a Nation, then they might as well hang it up.
      I wish you could send a copy of this to every single Congress Critter!

    3. Oh, but Florida is at least as high as Texas and certainly higher than Arizona in the batshit crazy idiots abounding category! It almost seems like all the southern states are bound & determined to convince the rest of the country everyone who lives here has the IQ of a sloth. Maybe even competing to BE the most idiotic of all! Why else would some of the crazy-ass laws have been PASSED in so many southern states in the last few years? It makes me want to go on any national News program just to yell out, "NO! There ARE people here with actual brains that do NOT agree with all this douchebaggery! We just keep getting out-voted by the inbred morons! It's not US!", but I guess that'd make me look just as nutty as those folks I stay in my house all day to avoid...

    4. Well, look on the bright side...Texas crazy inspires good, even great writing. The Molly Ivins quote to launch this post is appropriate. Finding the terminal point of Texas crazy is like trying to find the final digit of Pi.

  5. "anybody can make a single use, untraceable, throwaway gun."

    Which might blow up the first time it was fired. All things considered, I think I'd just go to a gun store.

    The source article for that school in Halfway, Oregon is at the Oregonian's web site - http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/05/halfways_active_shooter_drill.html. The person who designed the exercise was Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman, Israeli army vet, who puts himself forward as a counterterrorism expert.

  6. That "simulated" shooting in Halfway, Oregon -- I am sadly reminded of what happened to a dear friend of mine, a guy I "adopted" as a younger brother (because he really didn't have much of a blood family and was raised in a group home... yeah, in Texas), who decided to hold his upper division political science class "hostage" as his Term Project. This was about 15 years ago, shortly after Columbine. I can't remember exactly what he was trying to communicate, but he wanted the entire class -- including the professor -- to experience the terror, the helplessness in the face of increasing demands.

    He ran the basic idea past my best friend, who was employed by the Pepperdine Public Safety Department at the time. What he didn't mention was that he had *not* gotten permission from the professor to run this scenario. He also did not mention he planned on using a prop firearm from the Theater Department. Yes, I believe we can all see where this was headed.

    The professor was truly frightened when my friend burst into the classroom dressed too much like Che Guevara for comfort, and brandishing the prop weapon only made it worse. Some of the students started to weep, being only a couple weeks from graduation and fearing they would never see that day. This was before the proliferation of cell phones that could do anything more than call someone, so there was no hope of someone quietly texting for help.

    My friend began to make demands for the liberation of some unspecified "prisoners." The professor thought he had finally snapped. About that time, someone walked past the closed door and happened to look in the small (about 8"x12") window. She ran to the department office and quickly called Public Safety, who evacuated the rest of the building before getting on the bullhorn and telling my friend to surrender.

    He was surprised that his "project" had caused such consternation, but quickly put down the prop weapon and allowed everyone to leave the classroom. He offered no resistance when the head of Public Safety put him in handcuffs and took him away.

    Ultimately, he was expelled from Pepperdine for such an extreme lapse in judgment. Charges were not pressed, more in the interest of keeping the Pepperdine image safe than in protecting my friend's reputation. This was the young man whom the Young Republicans of both California and Texas had touted as quite possibly the first Latino Presidential candidate. (They were evidently looking a bit further down the road for that event than current opinion would suggest.)

    Sadly, his life took many more steps in the wrong direction before turning around, and I don't know where he is now. Reading of other "mock" takeovers just makes me flinch at the foolishness of it all.

    Sheryl (who doesn't want to go through the rigamarole not to be Anonymous at this late hour)

    1. Sheryl, the part of you comment where you mentioned cellphones brought back a comment from one of the first responders at Virginia Tech. He said that as they were bringing out the murdered students bodies, the sound they heard most was the students cellphones ringing... Ringing...ringing... That image has haunted me ever since.
      (I signed up for google comments but it doesn't work so that's why I am anonymously)


  7. Spot on, as usual. You asked who plays Russian Roulette (rhetorical, I know), sixteen years ago when I was in high school a childhood friend died playing Russian Roulette. Year before that, a classmate was shot and killed by a friend who thought the gun wasn't loaded. Following year (or year after that, lots of terrible stuff happened in high school) another classmate shot and killed his girlfriend when he was cleaning an supposedly unloaded rifle. All of these incidences were called accidents at the time and were shocking in the community. And yet here we still are so many years later and more children are dying needlessly from stupidity when handling weapons. And yet our elected officials do little to nothing. And yet people are still calling these incidences accidents and don't take my guns. It's so damn depressing.

    On a side note, I learned about Moore's Law, which I've noticed in tech products but didn't realized had a term/theory.

    1. Back in the late '60s (or perhaps early '70s), my nephew shot my niece with their father's handgun. Fortunately, the wound was not fatal, although my niece was left with a nasty scar from navel to spine across half her waist. I think the kids were 9 and 7 at the time, the boy being older.

      My sister & brother-in-law were appalled, outraged, you name it - they never thought this would happen, never mind leaving 2 kids alone in a home with a loaded gun. Never mind a history of their father's extreme, blind favoritism toward the daughter, while blaming the son (and punishing him) for every childhood squabble (in his mind, girls could do no wrong). Never mind the son getting every punishment while the daughter skated away unscathed for the incidents she instigated. Having engendered feelings of extreme resentment in the son directed toward the daughter, they expected any different?

      Apparently, the girl was instigating again, having learned that she could get away with just about anything, and the boy decided his life would be better if he got rid of her. Just normal childhood squabbles, right? Until you introduce a loaded, available weapon. This is how children think, and why we don't allow them unsupervised access to loaded weapons that could actually kill someone.

      Of course, the incident was dismissed as an "accident." Being only a few years older than my nephew at the time, he confided in me that it was no accident. That he was not "playing with the gun" and it "went off" accidentally, which was the narrative the family put out. No, he told me that he thought that shooting her was the only way to "make her stop" tormenting him, when he knew he'd be punished if he retaliated. This is how children think...

      Both children survived to adulthood, and got on with their lives. But anyone who thinks that leaving a loaded weapon within easy reach of children is any kind of good idea is seriously deluded - and doesn't understand how children think. Too many of the bang-bang-crazy crowd seem to think like children, if they think at all.

    2. Very sad & awful story (which I can relate to as I had an older sister that was the very same way & I was the one always blamed and beaten, but dad was a cop & was too smart to ever leave any gun anywhere I might get at it, dammit), but it does make your point beautifully. I also especially love "Too many of the bang-bang-crazy crowd seem to think like children, if they think at all." Brilliant. I may have to use that line in the future...with your permission of course.

  8. Does anyone else see a "Screwfly Solution" ending to all of this?


    1. Ha! One of the code words to publish the above was "destruction."

  9. Hey, I live in Arizona. We're not all like that. Although far too many are. I don't think you can call them crazy, though, so much as just friggin' stupid. I swear sometimes I think there's only three teeth in the whole state. Toothless redneck morons. Must be some ratio for toothlessness to kneejerkiness as expressed by racism, homophobia and ignorance. Hmm, this started out as a defense. Never mind. Truth is truth. Also, been a while, so glad to see another post. Scary as it is. Here's hoping we can achieve some kind of national dialogue on important stuff instead of "Survivor" or whatever the idiots care about.

  10. The NRA does not represent my views as a gun owner. In fact, I think they are just about the biggest threat to my gun rights out there, because they frighten too many people into think we are ALL that crazy and irresponsible, to the point where the rest of us get ignored and left out of the discussion entirely.
    I can think of only two ways to handle 3D printed guns; tightly regulate ammunition, and make possession of one illegally subject to extremely harsh punishment.

  11. I'm quite surprised that Cody Wilson attends a public law school. As part of a public university, his law school is subject to governmental oversight and paid for with tax dollars which he does not believe should be levied. In other words, our young Anarchist Libertarian (their rhetoric today really makes them more anarchist than Libertarian) has no trouble taking advantage of the very system he despises. Wanker.

    1. That is true of ALL libertarians, large L and small, after you wipe the bullshit off.

    2. Agree, too many of those Libertarian types have no trouble taking serious advantage of the systems they say they despise.

  12. There are plastic breasts, why not plastic guns? They both have the same function, to attract attention.


    1. Does that mean that Sister Sarah will be getting plastic gun implants on her chest? If so, can someone please pull the trigger?


    2. ...because pulling the trigger solves problems, right?

    3. And now I can't get the movie "Two Mules for Sister Sara" out of my head.


  13. Thanks.

    I do understand that you missed the "3D printed guns know no borders" argument.

    Because Mr. Wilson's design is digital, it will impact countries around the world - whether they are used to "2nd amendment remedies" since their inception - or not.

  14. If you ask me, one of the core issues being missed is that these "sovereign citizen" libertarians only think about one aspect of the concept of freedom : "freedom to". The other aspect is "freedom from", and it is as important, if not more so, than the first.

    One of the historical functions of governments is to provide "freedom from" for society: freedom from starvation; from invasion; from theft of property; from being murdered by your wacko neighbor who thinks your party is too loud; etc. (And, yes, that freedom is brought about through a collective force of arms.) This sovereign individual scenario provides society with no "freedom from" (ironically, from these sovereign citizens, as I see it).

    And individual ownership of nukes? That provides for no society at all, eventually, because there must be life on Earth to have a society.

    And unless I am wrong, don't a large number of these nuts proclaim a belief in their bible? Obviously they don't actually read it. Didn't Joseph convince Pharoah to provide the country with freedom from starvation by storing grain (that era's tax levies) against a drought? Did not the first christians immediately organize themselves into a communist society? Didn't God himself require "offerings" (an ancient example of spin, if you ask me).

    (Who is aware that nobody, in fact, did ask me)

    1. Bruce,
      You may not have been asked but you put into words the part of this overall insanity that has been eluding me. Everyone should know that with freedom and rights comes responsibility, but it's becoming obvious that people have lost the vision and meaning of responsibility/ self regulation. And yes, in a 'free' society we are due our right to 'freedom from . . .'. Thats why I love these opinion pieces, I never miss reading the comments. Thank you for helping me reframe my discussion.
      Duff in NoFla

  15. What kind of a country are we leaving our grandchildren? As usual, you didn't miss a thing...good job!

  16. I find the term 'rational senator' somewhat suspect. It would seem more correct to wish for 'national senators.' That is my only quibble with the rant. As usual, Jim is on point. (I am an ex-quail hunter.)

  17. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredMay 11, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    Great essay - as usual. I was half expecting to see this in there, as well, but I'm sure you have so many opportunities for crazy examples that you just have to make some decisions. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/10/fake-gunman-iron-man-missouri-movie-theater_n_3254700.html?ir=Entertainment
    "Goodrich Quality Theaters has come under fire this week after its Capital 8 theater in Missouri hired a fake gunman for an "Iron Man 3" screening during the opening weekend of the film."

    What could possibly have gone wrong, right?

  18. Great essay. I doubt that I have anything important to add, but I'll say this, and you can delete if you choose. Yes, I'm quietly terrified of the printed guns. Doubt that my terror adds anything to the discussion.

    The little Cricket rifle, well, my household includes one. It's pink. My youngest begged for 9 months before we got it for her for her birthday. Even before that, hubby took each of the kids out (separately, I think--they are three years apart in age) and shot a water-filled 2 liter bottle with a firearm. Could have been the .44, or might have been the 16 ga., I don't remember. They came home with eyes as big as saucers and entirely convinced that firearms are NOT toys. But each were also determined to learn how to safely become accurate with these tools. Eldest uses our old Daisy single-shot .22, (lightweight, and relatively small, but still rifle-length) and scored 49 out of 50, (5 shots) at 50 yards, in high wind, the last time they went out to shoot targets. Youngest, with her pink Cricket, was only two points behind. And that same Cricket, being designed as a child's piece, has an integrated bolt lock, with one of those round keys like you see in vending machines, or you can't even close the bolt. Even above and beyond the rule that guns aren't toys, and therefore aren't there to be "played with" and the rule that they are always supposed to be treated as though they are loaded, I'm still wondering why that 5 year old was able to close the bolt before he "played" with that weapon that killed his little sister. I call that news story negligence (not locking the bolt) or lack of education (why did he think he could "play" with it?) or lies and misdirection (how many firearms in that house, and was it really the Cricket he used?)

    But back to my own terror, I have a crazy person who walks around in my mother's skin, and over the past year she has evolved into telling her therapist that she's been fantasizing about killing my husband, or paying someone else to do it. She lives on Social Security, so there's not much chance she can afford a professional, and even allowing for recent fantasies, she was never in favor of guns at all. (Earlier this year, she announced to me that it was against Federal law to own a gun in a house with children. Since she believes this, it doesn't matter to her that I can find no evidence that it is true. The whole "she believes" is the basis for a whole lot of pain in the family. If the voices tell her so, it doesn't matter what anyone else says.) But if she can easily skip the gun show, or the pawn shop, or the actual sporting goods store, and simply have someone print out a gun for her, or use one for her... I sincerely doubt that she'll follow through on this, but if I end up as a widow, I suppose she'll get to say she told me so. Though I'm more afraid that her bargain basement assassin will have crappy aim, and get me or the kids by mistake.

  19. 3D printers are a lot better than many people may realise. Even the little $1400 off the shelf printer can do a very good job at simple plastic parts, although the plastic bunny I printed the other day as a demo didn't fart rainbows :( .

    If you want to spend $10,000 - $30,000, there are printers that can print very high definition, high impact, high performance plastic parts.

    Spend some more and you can print multiple materials including metals and the price of all these printers are coming down while the capabilities go up.

    The other side of the coin is that high quality, 3d design open-source software and, more importantly, 3D scanning software and hardware is readily available and dead easy to use. So, even if we were successful in wiping the existing material off the net, it is, literally, child's play to scan real parts and make and/or modify replicas.

    With the advent of nano technology, and the advances they're making in lab's around the world building things atom by atom, in not too many years the complexity of products that can be printed will truly astound you (and possibly scare the hell out of you as well)

    I did a little article for a sustainability magazine that looked future technologies including 3D printing and, after I wrote the article, I started to talk to people about some of the possibilities. How's this for a sample scenario that I often use as an example. It will be possible, using nano technology, to develop a printer that can print, say, a laptop. Now that's pretty impressive, all the case, the screen and the electronics including the computer chip, circuit board, everything! Wow! But how about the batteries? Yep! fully charged! Double Wow!

    It would come out of the printer complete and with a fully charged battery! But wait! There's more...

    The software on the hard disk is nothing more than magnetised regions on a platter or charges in solid state memory. So the printer can print them, and hence the software at the same time. Not only that, but it could print the laptop in hibernation.

    That means you could take the laptop from the 3d printer, open it up and it would resume from the suspended state, with all the required software installed and a program (probably advertising) up and running and presenting information on the screen!

    Once you've got your head around concepts like that, the thought of what a few, shall we say, unpleasant characters, could do with that kind of technology is frightening.

    But, as Jim noted, the technology we have now is more sufficient to cause chaos unless we find a way to deal with the people side of the problem, because that's where the real problem is.


    1. Wow. Amazing information.

    2. Sounds like a Replicator to me. Beam me up Scotty!

  20. Guns are not meant to kill people. Guns are meant to kill period, with people being a subset.

    It's RAUL not Paul Rodriguez

    What's going to happen next with 3D printers? I remember seeing ones that would use heat to make sculptures out of sugar. Soon, there will be finer control faster printing and sturdier materials that will have more properties. Imagine instead of just using cheap plastic/nylon they figure out something like JBWeld but better and faster setting.

    "Folks, we need to stop asking “How damned stupid can you be?” Some of these folks are taking it as a challenge." I need this on a TShirt.

    1. It's RAUL not Paul Rodriguez

      You are correct. It's fixed. Thanks for pointing out the mistake.

    2. Tee-shirt. My want as well.

  21. I worked in the computer division of a Canadian bank back when PCs were the coming thing. You invoked many fond memories of why we worked such long hours trying to get everything to work. And right on about the printers! Okidata ring a bell? lol.

    Fabulous piece. This should be in every news 'paper' in North America. Kudos to you for your guts, logic and unshakeable credibility. Time for a book, maybe past time. As a Canuck, I don't totally relate to the widespread gun ownership and overall paranoia of our dear neighbours to the South, but since my immediate family all cut and run to the US, I certainly worry about the decline of one of the best countries on Earth. It has certainly changed since I spent marvellous summers in Gloucester MA as a kid so many years ago.

    1. I have a wide-carriage 9-pin Okidata serial printer in the basement storeroom. Along with a couple of cases of 36" wide tractor-feed fanfold (pale green and white alternating stripes. And a case of ribbons, sealed in plastic.

      I used it to print out programming code, FORTRAN, COBOL, Pascal, back when I was getting my degree in CompSci. It hasn't been plugged in in 20 years, but I know the minute I get rid of it, I'll need it. So it resides in the storeroom, just in case I ever need to print out the 80's line by line.

  22. "... a five year old boy shot his two year old sister to death with a rifle he received as a present for his birthday." Who the hell gives a real rifle to a five-year old? Who leaves it around accessible and loaded? Is the parents collective IQ greater than the number of their remaining teeth? ... oh, never mind, freedom, after all.

    1. Those parents won the Darwin award in my opinion.

    2. Unfortunately, so did the kids, both of them.

      But then again, evolutionary theory accommodates species that don't take care of their kids, doesn't it?

  23. Jim, thanks for the scare. The (mythical) average person is still in the dark about what a 3D printer is and what it is capable of creating. About 6 months ago, an elderly friend of mine was talking about 3D printing and about how it would be here in a few years. I broke the news to her that these printers were already here and that I had handled some items made with such a printer more than 5 years ago.

    The saddest part of the NRA is that it was created after the Civil War, because so few soldiers in that war could shoot well. The goal was to improve marksmanship. At one time, the NRA supported bans on "dangerous" firearms including sawed-off shotguns during the Prohibition era. It once supported background checks. What happened to the NRA?

  24. Does anyone besides me remember "BB caps?" They were basically shortened .22 rimfire cartridges with only a primer and a ball or conical bullet. As far as I know, there was significant marketing as something suitable for a child. Many single shot, falling block "long guns" were made that had an overall length of about 24 to 30 inches, "perfectly suitable" for a five or six-year old. They could kill small birds and animals and the occasional person. I never shot one because I didn't trust that kind of breech mechanism so close to my eye.

    1. I think you can still buy them. I fired more than a few as a kid on Scout ranges.

      .22BB and .22CB rounds. For indoor target shooting. The .22CB could be fired in a regular .22 handgun/longun for target shooting or for small varmints. The .22BB was for a smoothbore gallery gun, which was basically an airgun without the air, about as powerfull as a good pellet gun, say ~600/700fps muzzel velocity. BB rounds were round, CB rounds are conical with a soft lead rifling ring. The shell brass is basically a rimfire starter pistol cartridge, instead of crimping it closed you insert the BB or CB.

    2. Ya, I remember BB/CB's in carnival shooting galleries, but as I recall, in that case, the guns were more or less full-sized. What I was referring to was, for all intents and purposes, a toy with maybe a 12 or 15-inch stock. I don't think they've been made for a long time. The one I fooled with as a teenager belonged to the father of a friend.

    3. I don't think I ever saw one of those.

    4. I own a .22 Remington child's rifle that I inherited from my grandparents. It is a single-shot breechloader, firing pin is in the block so locking the block down is the safety. It will fire any .22 load. It just happens to be quite small. I've never seen another like it. Ring any bells with you gun experts?

      Which reminds me, it's been sitting in the attic without cleaning for about 15 years now. Guess I better do that.


  25. Dot matrix printers? Ha! I still have my COLOR Apple Imagewriter, complete with ribbons. What am I bid? tee hee
    Hey, do you suppose it could be modified to print pretty colored handguns?
    Sorry, but I'm just too appalled by our so-called "legislative body" (sigh, body, as in cadaver, sigh again) that appears to be totally controlled by the NRA and idiots....but I repeat myself...to make anything but silly snarky comments.
    Thanks for, yet again, a masterful commentary.
    Please forgive my whimpering....

    woof, who is too lazy and intimidated to try to have a real identity.

  26. " I do want autos regulated, and registered...."

    Too bad. You have no say in that matter, nor the one you are analogizing. More accurately, nobody has any moral obligation to take your "say" into account when making their decisions (or anyone else's "say"), even those decisions that look superficially like the same ones that some people make that damage others. The edicts of self-appointed "leaders" don't change that.

    --Kyle Bennett

    1. And Arizona weighs in.

      WTF, Kyle? Is it just me, or is your comment incomprehensible gibberish? Please tell me that you were attempting snarky sarcasm, and your chute just didn't open.

    2. You have no say in that matter, nor the one you are analogizing.

      Are you really not seeing that our autos being regulated and registered is due to the fact that, way back when it was time to make that decision--cars have been with us for almost a century and a half now--there were a lot of people who felt the same way Jim (and everyone else with a room-temop-or-better IQ) does?

      Are you by chance an anarchist? Does your distaste for the whole concept of government render you blind to the fact of its existence, and the ways in which it works? Cars, and lots of other things, are regulated because we damn well wanted it that way. And when "we" can get our voices heard above the din created by the Weapons Manufacturors' Benevolent Society--I mean the NRA--they bloody well will be. The only question is, how many Newtowns will it take...

    3. Kyle is right. You, me, and society as a whole has no say in the decisions made by sociopaths. Even the ones that are "superficially" like "I'll endanger your life by not getting my car inspected". Cuz, liberty, you know.


    4. And my word capchta was "efferax purchased"! What kind of a scam are you running here, Jim? What's an efferax, anyway? And what is the shipping on that?

      (New efferax owner, apparently)

    5. Kyle didn't mentioned sociopaths. I'm not exactly sure what the fuck he said. I'd like him to clarify his comment.

    6. No, he didn't mention sociopaths. I did. Assuming he wasn't being sarcastic, it seems a fair extrapolation.

      So when do I receive my efferax?

      (OK, I'll shut up about it now)

    7. Thinking about it a bit more, this extreme libertarian sovereign-individual viewpoint IS a philosophical sociopathy, if you will. It takes the individual's free will to the extreme, without consideration for the group.

      Not to imply that these folks are all true sociopaths, that is a very rare clinical condition. However, the "ethic" of unfettered free will is, to me, one of complete amorality. It also brings to mind the phrase "nasty, brutish and short".

      It is as if these extreme libertarians are performing a reductio ad absurdum on their own viewpoints. Maybe they forgot that the reductio is employed as an argument against a position, not for it.


  27. And the HuffPo reports that Pennsylvania will allow students to bring guns to school. What could possibly go wrong ?? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/11/guns-in-schools_n_3258786.html

    1. William. Tare. Fox.

      *How* long ago was Columbine?

    2. My husband remembers casually that he stored his shotgun in his high school locker so he could go hunting on his way home after school. For what it is/was worth, a different time?

  28. Never mind the printed guns, I'm getting me one of them new ones called "The Congressman". It doesn't work, you can't fire it, but you can buy as many as you want.

    Jeanne in WV

    1. Yeah, but only the real good ones stay bought...

    2. Well played, Jeanne, well played.

  29. Jim, you wrote -- "At eight grand for a cheap 3D Printer, they’re a bit beyond the average consumer – but only a bit, and only for the next very few years."

    Well,I think you must have blinked in between typing and posting, because the future you spoke of is here -- http://cubify.com/cube/.

    There's even this e-zine -- http://blog.makezine.com/category/workshop/3d-printing-workshop

    1. The ultra cheap printers don't yet have the resolution to print high quality parts. To make a machine using hard/heat resistant plastic at the precision required for something like a gun, you still need a better than bottom end 3D assembler. But it's coming.

  30. Fuzzy Headed NRA Gun Droolers is the name of my Ted Nugent cover band.

  31. Once again, you cover an issue with true excellence. And once again, I am sharing your wit and wisdom. Thanks for the printer nostalgia too. I remember all the stages of printing development over the past two + decades!

  32. Wow, Jim, totally wonderful. And I can tell you were in quite the mood when you wrote it. We're going into a tailspin as a "society." Quotation marks because we are not a single society any longer. NO consensus. On anything. I can't even say I am with any particular organized group of folks because none of them will put up with me thinking for myself. You have to get the whole package, you can't pick and choose what you espouse. It's the McDonald's way. G and I may end up retiring to Ecuador after all.

  33. A friend on Facebook posted a link to this blog entry of yours and quoted this portion of your post:

    "That’s not an accident, that’s negligent homicide, manslaughter, pure and simple.

    The parents however won’t be prosecuted.

    Because there’s no law against leaving your kid and your loaded gun unattended in the same room (though, personally, I think a clever prosecutor could make a case of child endangerment)."

    It drew me here because I had posted only the day before that despite the fact that I don't support many gun control initiatives, I feel like I hear a lot of "responsible gun owner" rhetoric from conservatives, without much effort or real integrity behind the "responsible" part of the equation!

    I also said we should have laws that hold gun owners criminally responsible for negligent homicide if a child is killed (or accidentally kills an adult) because the gun owner failed to properly lock up his or her gun. Yes, I know it would be horrible to lose a child and then go to jail for it, but frankly, if you decided to own a gun but not take proper care of it around your children, you fucking deserve it. And it's not really about you. It's about making other parents who are dim think about storing their guns. Some states already have legislation like this, and I noted with some disappointment that it's mostly liberal states. We who support the idea of "responsible" gun ownership should be the ones who are the most all over this! Because see! We are Responsible! We support responsible ownership. And gun education. And we know guns are a very dangerous toy, and we are not like those idiots!

    So, anyway, you can see why the synchronicity drew me here. I am glad it did, because your blog is very interesting and entertaining. I haven't read the previous parts of the essay yet, but I am looking forward to doing so.

    P.S. I kept trying to use the comment as livejournal option (http://paprica.livejournal.com), but I had no luck.

    1. mmkay, never mind. I guess I was having luck with the LJ name, it just didn't look like it. :)

    2. Yet if the same parents drive drunk with their children in the car, and they have a wreck and the child is killed, they face not just child endangerment but vehicular homicide. Yet I don't hear too many people clamoring that it was "just an accident" and the parent has already suffered a lot with the death of their child.

      I am all for changing laws that remove this "special protection" of family members when their actions result in the death of another family member. If these same parents had left an loaded gun out and their child killed someone else's child. Would we feel that same toward those parents? Would the local DA feel the same?

    3. I think a clever prosecutor could make a case of child endangerment

      There's a chance, maybe better than even, that the local prosecutor is seething, because he knows bloody well that's exactly what this is, and he doesn't dare bring charges or he'd face a tar & feathering squad for his trouble...

  34. The AZ state legislature passed a bill saying that guns may not be destroyed in buy-back program and that confiscated guns may not be destroyed. So Phoenix, trying to stay ahead of this new law, has been doing buy-back and destroy programs now, handing out grocery cards to get these guns off the street. But across the street, the gun worshippers are offering cash for the guns.
    Typical Arizona crAZy.


    1. I heard about this the other week. It is so lacking in common sense that I was rendered the blog equivalent of speechless. What possible justification was given for this crazy-assed idea?

    2. The National Rifle Assn.’s legislative action arm urged members to support the bill, saying, “firearms that are collected would maintain their value and their sale to the public would help recover public funds when budgets are strained.”

  35. As an Arizonan, I really feel like I should say something here in defense of the ol' homestead. Unfortunately I can't. Sigh. I will mention that neither I nor anyone (sane) that I know voted for our current crazy ass "leadership". Not like it helped. I blame all the conservatives from other states who retire here and start voting. So maybe if all the other states kept their crazy old folks home...... :) Also, is analogizing a word?

  36. Sounds like a Replicator to me. Beam me up Scotty!

    "Stargate Trek"? How'd I miss that show?

  37. Mike from FairbanksMay 12, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    You have done it well again........ started out telling a great story about the past (I owned an old Tandy2000 in 1984-5, and reminded me of the days of early "desk-top publishing", as I wrote and published the newsletter for the local Sportsman's Club in Michigan), and turned it into a serious conversation about the future of our Nation. I commend you. People need this kind of conversation to ground them in the reality of the current train of thought going on from some of these bat-shit crazies that are, unfortunately, actually running this country.

    Let's hope some of them will actually see what they are doing and change their ways, instead of being "lead" by the hosts of violence and sick train of thought. I am furious that our Senator did what he did..... he needs to be ashamed of himself as a human. Spineless!!! Lost my vote too.

  38. I don't like the idea of either a universally armed or a totally disarmed society, though if those were the only two choices, as a small weak person I'd have to prefer the former. But it seems to me that what guys like Wilson could really use is a hostile crazy neighbor who likes to sit on his back porch caressing a gun and staring at their house. Soon enough he would be calling the police twice a week demanding that the State do more to protect him. It would be educational for him, no?

  39. The bright side is that the plastic gun will ultimately take money away from the gun manufacturers. Who will then have to stop funding the NRA who then will no longer will be able to buy off Congress. See - something to look forward to.

    1. I'll go out on a limb and predict that manufacturers of lots of things will lobby like crazy to get 3dPs regulated in whatever ways they can. I'd say Congress isn't craven enough to do what they want, but that would be a silly thing to say...

  40. I have sold all my rifles. I have a few bird guns locked in my gun safe and someday I hope to take my grandson quail hunting.
    I locked my pistols in the safe when he turned two and started getting into stuff.
    Some of my fellow Texans think I'm too spooked about the boy.
    An eight year old in Denton, Texas shot his five year old brother in the head this past weekend with a .22 he found in his house.

  41. I wish I had paid more attention to a public TV article this weekend. Was on a shooting in ?Mass, where after the killer was in jail, he said that if there had been a waiting period, he probably wouldn't have done it. The article had interviews with the father of one of the slain who commented that he guessed the country has accepted the occasional school shooting as a price we pay to have unlimited access to guns. (or something like that, I was busy and didn't watch, just caught bits of it.) Dead kids, the price we pay, makes me understand why people become hermits. And yes, Equador is looking more inviting than retiring in this increasingly crazy country.

  42. Once again, congratulations on a thought-provoking post. I have nothing but the utmost respect for you, Jim, for your knowledge and your eloquence shown in all the parts of the Bang Bang Crazy series. One of the reasons I avidly read your blog is to find out what you (in so many ways unlike me) think, given your experience with so many things that are completely foreign to me. I find it heartening to know that, no matter how different we may be, we are so often in agreement.

    I have no first-hand knowledge about guns. I am quite content to remain that way. With my roots going back to pre-Revolutionary War times, I am proud to be be a Pennsylvanian, where the Declaration was signed, the Constitution adopted, and the Bill of Rights proposed. However, the state (Commonwealth, supposedly) in which I live is the one about which presidential candidate Obama famously made the (accurate IMO) comment about people "clinging to their guns and their religion." I work in an office in which the principals "carry" concealed (legally) every day. I figure it's either the safest office in my suburban Philadelphia office park or the most dangerous...

    "My" senator Toomey is now coasting -- and building up his approval ratings -- on his "bravery" in allowing his name to be linked with a Democrat on a proposed amendment expanding background checks, which are overwhelmingly desired by his constituency. That is all. Nothing. Else. His official emails carefully pointed out that there was not one other limit in his amendment -- no assault weapons ban, no limitation on size of magazines, no registry, NOTHING! And then, when the weak amendment failed, the follow-up email could be summed up as "I tried. Never mind. Move along." Without even a "too bad", much less a commitment to follow-up/try again/ANYTHING. And now he'll try to use this pisspoor excuse of a proposed-once, abandoned-forever amendment in his re-election campaign next year.

    I thought I knew a little about printers. But my definition of a printer involves ink and paper. Anything else seems to me to be some type of manufacturing device. Or something that appears to be close to magic. Which is what "printing" a gun seems like to me.

    According to the film "A Place at the Table", one in four children in the U.S. doesn't know where his/her next meal is coming from. And too many of the so-called lawmakers in Washington DC are busy making sure that not only is nothing done to remedy the horror of constant hunger, but, the opposite -- that food assistance is HARDER to obtain. The summer months are nearly here. Months when millions of children no longer receive the one (or, if they're lucky, two) meals that they get with school lunch programs. On five days of a seven-day week.

    I have children, now nearly grown, but my children no matter their age . Perhaps one day my children may have children. Perhaps I will live long enough to see a grandchild. I wish that I could feel hopeful that there will be a community worthy of the name if that happens.

    "Libertarian" my ass. It's arrogance and selfishness, pure and simple.

    1. You said it, sister! (Literally-she's my sister.) I read that email. Not only did that amendment get chipped away so as to be all but toothless, but it also stated that it would make any effort to establish a national gun registry illegal. So background checks okay but once the gun is out there, all bets are off. I realize both senators actually worked together but the result was still lame and ineffective against the problem as a whole. One step forward and two steps back-that didn't take any courage whatsoever. And, here in southcentral Pennsyltucky, the letters to the editor are excoriating Pat Toomey for plotting with the enemy to take away everyone's guns. So we go on being held hostage by a very small segment of the country's population and their gun-toting, Congress-buying club. All of these paranoid nutjobs who are preparing for a war with the government should be more afraid of people like Cody Wilson, who apparently subscribes to the ultimate chaos theory. And, incidentally, should we decide to sterilize parents with combined IQs of 200, I think we know which voter base that would encompass.
      Pam in PA

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. The PC/XT. Ah, the memories...that came in DIPP packages.

    We are a country that retains the ability to celebrate our freedom to do things, but we are losing the ability to judge whether we should. 3-D printing is going to, at once, be one of the greatest economic equalizers since Gutenberg's invention of printing, and a means of placing the horrifically-dangerous easily and anonymously into the hands of those who shouldn't have such things.

    But that is not the story this week that will have Mr. Wright's nerves on edge. He is the steely-eyed kind, not given to fits of idle panic, oh no. What came out this week that is most likely to have him starting awake nights with his sheets locked in white-knuckled terror is this.

    As much as the thought of every wanna-be hitman being able to print out an untraceable gun might terrify you, that is not how civilization as we know it is going to end. THAT thing is (more to the point, your skin-flint neighbor who thinks that regularly-scheduled oil changes are a scam to get people to buy more services is).

    Jim has already written on that very subject; it is, IMHO, one of the finest pieces of commentary he has ever put out. If you aren't already familiar with the article I refer to, find it <a href="http://www.stonekettle.com/2010/04/things-that-chap-my-ass-about-auto.html>here</a>. Put down any beverages you may be drinking before commencing. Seriously. The Marines have been using an eerily-similar concept of a vehicle for quite some time now, and their version of it doesn't have to negotiate <i>folding its freakin' rotors</i>. As them how it's worked out for them.

    If you hadn't already seen that article, Jim, my apologies. Melatonin works for me.

    1. Seriously. I hate trying to get href links to work in comments on Blogger. I'll just post the relevant links below:



  45. Well, now we'll get a chance to see how well the Old Masters of SF did in their predictions about machines that can make damn near anything. They mostly dealt with matter synnthesis, like Damon Kinght's "Gizmo", but the 3dP is close enough to get started with. Sort of a coal-fired Gizmo.
    Knight says a slave society is the inevitable result. The fact that SF writers have an abysmal prediction score overall is comforting right about now.
    On the other hand, RAH did predict The Crazy Years...
    And if you add to that the not-all-that-far-down-the-road appearance of nanotech, the future is starting to look....interesting.
    I think it was in Greg Bear's Slant that I read what strike me as the scariest 3 words in modern SF: "Military Grade Nano". That be some scary shit...

  46. Figured you might want to see this update about some other craziness coming to a Capitol near you:

  47. During my first tour of duty at NavCommSta Rota, one of my supervisors, an E5 or E6, had a gun collection. We got to be pretty friendly and on one occasion he was showing off some of his pieces. One of the more rare pieces was a crudely made .45. It was made with 5-7 rounds and was not designed to be reloaded once they were gone. The story he told was that the weapon was made for the Philippine Insurrection and they were air dropped. He said that some of the guns were designed to explode in the face of the shooter and it was the serial number that let you know whether the gun was safe to fire or not. As the numbering scheme was not known to him, and not easy to discern in those pre-internet days, he was never going to be bold enough to fire his most unique weapon.

    If you wanted to really fuck things up, that would be the way. Release a few designs into the wild that were specifically meant to misfunction in way that was likely to be harmful to the shooter. I rather doubt it would take very many instances of a printed gun blowing up on the first shot to make everyone think twice about actually using one.

    I would also imagine that if you can embed messages in .jpg files, it should also be possible to embed a trojan or virus in a 3d printer file. Program it to report in with location information or IP addresses of all who download it or some other scheme.

    My faith in true anonymity on the internet is weak indeed. I would have to be one desperate puppy to believe I could secretly download a gun and that it would function as advertised. I wouldn't think much of the mental capacity of anyone who took that route. But then, I know just enough to be paranoid.

    1. I thought I should add a bit of clarification here. I do not think it especially likely that the government would be the one to release the defective files. The firearms industry has gotten used to a certain level of sales. However, due to the expense of ammo and the fact that many of us have lives to lead and work to endure, a lot of the firearms are purchased just-in-case or, stupidly enough, as an investment. Those weapons are rarely fired. If the industry thought they were going to lose all of the j-i-c sales to 3D printing, I doubt they would have any compunction at all about sabotaging that effort.

      The thing about my scenario that makes it so likely is that there need not be any large cabal or broad consensus. One guy with the tech skills could do the deal. It would probably be a money guy and a tech guy but, as you well know, small groups acting in isolation are nearly impossible to stop on the front end. Plus, in this case, the government would have a vested interest in remaining ignorant. Ignorant is the one thing the government does really really well.

      As I say, I know just enough to be paranoid.


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