State Department & DefCad: Just What Files Freaked Them Out? (Part II)

Note: This will likely be a five three-part series. I will link to all parts below this note once all are done. I am the DefCad.org user, “OpenSourceArmorer.” Contact me via the DefCad forums if you have questions, and no – don’t even ask me for the original .STL files. Unless you can verify that you’re a US citizen, I can’t share them. And in the interwebs that kind of identity verification is hard and pointless. Especially when the files themselves are not that hard to find elsewhere…

 

In the first post in the three-part series I described what the controversy is over some 3D-printable CAD files that the State Department was concerned about. I especially emphasized what the State Department’s criteria is for objects that fall under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Now in this post I want to go over all ten items that were listed in their letter to Cody Wilson and explain why it’s clear the State Department doesn’t have a clue about what these files actually do when printed. We begin with the most well-known of them all…

 

1 – Defense Distributed Liberator pistol

 

Courtesy of Andy Greenberg. The Liberator in assembled form.

Courtesy of Andy Greenberg. The Liberator in assembled form.

 

Okay so this first one needs little explanation aside from some clarification about it’s so-called “undetectability.” A lot of idiot journalists (and a few lawmakers) have been harping on this as being invisible to airport security, as if not a damn thing has changed in that area since 1988. Well no, we have new technologies such as backscatter x-ray, thermal imaging, and millimeter-wave scanners. These technologies make “undetectable” firearms a total impossibility.

 

 Backscatter X-ray

Backscatter X-ray Image

The new version of the Rapiscan body scanners will come with software that only highlights foreign objects, not body parts.

 

A type of X-ray that can detect plastic is known as backscatter X-ray.  These types of body scanners will penetrate clothing, but not skin. Any solid object can be picked up irrespective of what it’s made of – including a 3D-printed gun. In fact, the ability to detect “plastic guns” has been one of the selling points of Rapiscan, the company that currently makes the kind that have been used in airport security. Right now they are working on a new version of their TSA body scanners that only show a gingerbread outline of the person being scanned (to address privacy concerns) while highlighting any specific foreign objects.

 

In addition to addressing privacy concerns, the Rapiscan body scanners also produce radiation levels so minuscule that you may as well worry more about being in direct sunlight for five minutes.

 

Thermo-Conductive Imaging

Thermo-Conductive Imaging

By detecting the difference in heat and IR conductivity between clothing, human skin, and a foreign object, Iscon scanners can detect 3D-printed guns with ease.

 

Thermo-Conductive Imaging identifies objects via their heat and infrared conductivity profile. The laws of physics makes it impossible for 3D-printed objects – or a wide variety of solid objects for that matter – to transfer heat and infrared radiation at the same rate as human skin and clothing. Yes, this applies even if someone has kept an object against their body for several hours. The temperature profile of any given object will vary between the side touching human skin and the side facing away. Thus it’s impossible to disguise an object from the scanner by attempting to match it’s temperature with the rest of someone’s body or clothing. Plastic being an insulator makes this especially impossible to pull off successfully.

 

Passive Radiation Scanners

This image is an example of a tech tested in New York City to detect firearms of all materials.

 

Next we have a category of passive scanners that detect natural radiation output from a human body – such as a new kind of scanner being tested in crime-ridden areas of New York City. In particular one technology that shows some strong promise for being both from radiation and privacy concerns is passive millimeter-wave scanning. I cannot emphasize this enough: these do not fire radiation at the person being scanned. They detect obstructions in natural bodily radiation normally emitted.

 

To put it in blunt terms, there is no such thing as an “undetectable” firearm, even if it’s a 3D-printed gun made entirely out of plastic. I will address this issue in a future post when I critique Steve Israel’s HR 1474.

 

According to the ITAR criteria for what falls under their control, it *might* be illegal for files of this pistol to be on the internet because it qualifies as a “non-automatic” firearm. My next blog post will visit the legal issues surrounding what is okay under ITAR soon. According to the official ITAR regulations, what Cody Wilson did may very well be perfectly legal since the files themselves may qualify as being under public access. This will be discussed in the next post, for now I just want to focus on what the actual files are.

 

Now it’s about time I explain in detail what the other nine CAD files are that the State Department took issue with in their letter to Cody Wilson. Prepare to be stupefied at just how trivial these objects are in printed form.

 

2 – The “.22 Electric” Concept

 

.22elecgun

No, this is not a functional gun at all – remain calm.

 

This is nothing more than the product of someone messing around with CAD design in order to make a purely conceptual pistol that as of yet has no possible way of functioning. To my knowledge the person who originally developed it abandoned the project because they concluded it was just plain unrealistic of a concept to pull off. The idea was to somehow make a printable gun that fires rounds via electrical detonation of a cartridge’s primer. The designer of this object goes by the name of “Proteus” on the DefCad forums, and despite abandoning the concept this object was supposed to utilize, he later worked on making a replica of something the State Department probably took even more seriously – but for stupid reasons of course.

 

 

3 – 125mm BK-14M high-explosive anti-tank warhead

 

123mm "Warhead"

The State Department thinks you can “print” an anti-tank warhead. Yes, they are batshit paranoid.

 

Out of all ten files, the reaction of the State Department over this one is by far the most f*ckishly hilarious of them all. This is not, I repeat, this is NOT a functional warhead. All you have here is a CAD file for making a plastic replica of a warhead that is no more harmful than a model jet. The story behind how the developer of this object achieved the task is especially noteworthy given how the State Department has chosen to define what an export is. When I first began a draft of this post several months ago (before I became busy for reasons discussed in this blog’s previous October post), I decided to get in touch with Proteus once and for all via private online chat.

 

He described to me in a nutshell how the process of designing the file played out:

 

“I designed a CAD file for a 125mm HEAT round. HEAT stands for High Explosive Anti Tank. Now, the first rule of anti tank warfare is do not fire solid pieces of ABS plastic at a tank, with no propellant, and hope it will stop the tank. It won’t. And yet this is exactly what the DOJ appears to believe regarding this design.”

 

So either the DOJ is stupid as hell, or they are overreacting to what should technically be considered under the public domain. More on why in just a moment…

 

“Opening the file finds a 3 foot tall design, too big to be printed on 99% of 3d printers. It also has NO inner workings (and I don’t even know what they are), and no fins on the back. Obviously the inner workings are critical to the functioning of a round.”

 

You heard it there folks. This file is for a solid replica that has no working internal components. Nothing anyone ought to freak out from. But what if the hardware, propellant, and all other necessary elements for a HEAT round were available in addition to this file?

 

“Alright, let’s assume that you SOMEHOW could print the round AND all the propellant etc, which is impossible with today’s technology. It is still in plastic, which would not contain the explosion as much as metal and therefore be much less potent than a standard round.”

 

The biggest blow to the idea that this file poses a special new danger to the public at large stems not just from the fact that you can’t find the inner workings of a real HEAT round along with the explosives and propellant, but where Proteus actually got the information used to make the file in the first place:

 

“And the kicker? I got everything to make this design, right here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:125mm_BK-14m_HEAT.JPG

 

4 – 5.56/.223 muzzle brake

 

5.56/.223 Muzzle Break

Oh noes!!! A printable muzzle break that gives nothing to America’s enemies that they don’t already have!

 

So let me get this straight… A muzzle break – which comes on just about any rifle these days by default and is nearly useless when printed in ABS or PLA or any plastic for that matter – is considered a troublesome offense to the ITAR laws? This is about as relevant to a firearm as a muffler is to a car. Sure, it may be a trivial component used in conjunction with a firearm but the object itself is useless unless you already have one. Not to mention the fact that a plastic muzzle break will not withstand the pressure and heat from a gun blast.

 

 

5 – Springfield XD-40 tactical slide assembly

 

XD-40 Slide

Artistic rendition of something useless without the whole damn gun itself. Art can be pretty “life-threatening.”

 

This was designed by a DefCad forum member named “texan_eagle_scout” who presented this here: http://forums.defcad.com/showthread.php?126-My-contribution

 

Nothing people can’t already acquire. You would be hard-pressed to get a printed slide to word on an actual Springfield XD.

 

6 – Sound Moderator – slip on

 

Sound_Moderator

Yes, a sound “moderator” for a pellet gun freaked the State Department out. No, it’s not for a real gun.

 

You may recall when the Liberator was first released that Chuck Schumer flipped his lid about a printable gun that could accept “silencers.” He may have been dumb enough to simply regurgitate what the New York Daily News reported on this matter, claiming that printable “silencers” were available for the Liberator. As the picture above clearly illustrates, this is nothing of the sort.

 

 

7 – “The Dirty Diane” 1/2-28 to 3/4-16 STP S3600 oil filter silencer adapter

 

Oil Filter Suppressor

Posting CAD files for car parts could be a threat to national security – run for the f%#&ing hills!!!

 

When it comes to legal gray areas that are open to wide interpretation, this object epitomizes such dilemmas the most. This is a car part and not something distinct to firearms. Explanation for why this violates international arms trafficking laws of any kind would sure be nice.

 

 

8 – 12 gauge to .22 CB sub-caliber insert

 

subcaliber-insert

CAD files for a cylindrical tube could be illegal to post online. Whoddathunk?

 

Here is another example of something that calls into question just how broad ITAR restrictions can be applied. What this is supposed to do is turn a shotgun (a relatively lethal weapon at close range), into a .22lr rifle. For those of you who know nothing about firearms, .22lr rounds are just about the smallest cartridges you could possibly find anywhere.

 

All in all this file would allow someone to make a plastic tube that makes their shotgun less lethal than it already was.

 

 

9 – Voltlock electronic black powder system

 

Voltlock

It’s a motherfucking cylinder. How this falls under ITAR restrictions beats me. Are sex toys munitions too???

 

Now we enter even more confusing territory about what the State Department thinks could potentially violate weapons export laws. As you can see in the image above, the “Voltlock” is nothing more than a cylinder – nothing more. I checked the actual CAD files (.stl) for this and it appears that this is supposed to be turned into a tube somehow. From there a hole exists at the top to insert some kind of black powder as well as electrical wiring to ignite it in some way. Clearly this is nothing more than a concept item like the “.22 electric” listed at #2 above.

 

This file reaches the pinnacle of the “Just how f-ing far can ITAR go???” mantra, and it’s not that hard to see why.

 

 

10 – VZ-58 sight

 

Rear VZ58

The rear portion of the iron sights. Anyone with a gun that could use this probably already has some.

 

Like many – if not all of the other objects on this list, I find this one to be a peculiar addition. Yes this file is a firearm component, but all this does is function like a rear sight replacement. Anyone with a gun that could make use of this part probably already has such a thing. I mean, guns do come with rear sights by default.

 

If the events surrounding ITAR’s present effect on these files means anything, it’s the fact that the Department of State is a bigger threat (or nuisance for that matter) than any of the parts they complained about.

 

October Musings: What’s Been of Importance to Me in 2013

 

As anyone can probably tell, I have been extremely late in finishing the post series on the files that DefCad had been hosting which the State Department took issue with. Part II is just about done, and part III will come up shortly in November. But given that I haven’t been updating this site very much for the past several months, I think it might be worth it to maybe explain myself for a bit, and of course make a record of what will take up my time from here on out.

 

1. To start with: I have spent some time here and there coming up with a stopgap measure against a potential doomsday scenario for 3D-printing restrictions that may very well never come to pass. Still, it never hurts to be prepared, and anything that helps destroy the morale of nanny-state politicians who wish they could implement such measures is a plus regardless of how the legal regime plays out. Shortly after the massive publicity put towards Defense Distributed’s successful testing and release of the Liberator pistol in CAD file form (along with the State Department’s somewhat futile request that Defense Distributed take down their DefCad files), there was some short-lived talk from California senator (you knew it had to be that or New York state) Leland Yee about all these oh-so-necessary registration rules that would need to apply to 3D printers.

 

Yes, this is the same Leland Yee that wanted to treat M-rated video games the same way alcohol is treated by forbidding their sale to children.   Falsely claiming that the Liberator suddenly gave criminals some kind of magical ability to kill someone “scott-free” (which to him is somehow impossible to do with a regular gun) Yee insisted that legislative action was necessary to address this great big one-shot pistol threat. These included background checks, serialization of printers, and last but not least: possible restrictions on what they’re allowed to print.

 

The first two of those suggestions are damn-near impossible to implement effectively. If someone buys a printer for family and friends to use, is that considered a “straw purchase” if someone else uses it to help make a gun? And if printers are serialized, well… How the hell is that supposed to achieve anything? Is this something on the printer itself that can just be removed outright the way serial numbers are filed off of firearms? Or is some type of watermarking of printed parts supposed to apply? All these are anyone’s guess at this point.   It is the third one (shape restrictions) however that *might* have some degree of potency.

 

The good news is that Yee has so far backed down from much if not all of his initial proposals, so shape restrictions may very well turn out to be a non-issue. But this only applies to Yee, less so for the whole US, and certainly not at all for other countries with more authoritarian governments. Restrictions on what printers are able to print would no doubt be a 21st century step forward in the gun control regime wishes.  So despite the fact that no software existed at the time to implement such a proposal, I began pondering ways in which you could get around such measures. Thus, a thread on the DefCad forums was born devoted exclusively to this very task. In it I noted that the simply way of defeating any shape restrictions is to simply alter how you print it so the firmware in question can’t tell what you’re making. How important this information could potentially be didn’t become clear until a month later…

 

It's not like I actually made a guide on defeating such measures a month earlier. Oh wait...

It’s not like I made a guide on defeating such measures a month earlier!!! Oh wait…

 

Suddenly a thread that wasn’t getting too much attention to begin with was now getting an influx of hits. How flattering. Ever since all that took place I have decided to turn that thread into a cleaned-up PDF guide. Anyone who wants to know how to bypass shape restrictions without having to jailbreak the printer will be able to do so without any knowledge of software exploitation. Hooray!

 

In addition to shape restrictions, I have since decided to also include means of getting past DRM restrictions placed on CAD files themselves. Rather than changing how you print something, the focus turns to how you generate a DRM-free file of the object you want to print. Some back and forth discussion between me and a few other people on Twitter led me to start including material on that problem as well.

 

So this PDF guide has been one thing taking up much of my time over the past several months. I hope to have it done on the anniversary of when Thingiverse decided to take down printable gun parts, maybe.

 

 

2. In addition, I have been working on my book. Yes, that book. The one this site is named after. The one I thought I was going to finish in 2010, and would be under 200 pages long. The one that is now looking to possibly be twice as long as that, with tinier font. The one I decided to start putting notes together for almost four years ago. Yes, “State Exempt: Guide to a Voluntary Society.”

 

Rather than rant on about the pathetic reasons why it won’t be done until early 2015, allow me to show some progress that actually has been made on the whole thing.

 

Several months ago, I was searching Google Images for some possible cover designs that were likely in the public domain. Looking for pictures of cities was of prime focus; any major center of commerce would do. So low and behold, I came across an image of Hong Kong:

 

One of the most *economically* free parts of the world.

One of the most *economically* free parts of the world.

 

Wow, pretty image! So I thought, “Hey, why not try to make a cover design out of it?” After messing around in Paint.Net (a favorite open-source alternative to paint for anyone who happens to be stuck on Windows), this is what I came up with:

 

Cover Concept 2.0 - The final won't be as dark.

Cover Concept 2.0 – The final won’t be as dark and heavily contrasted.

 

Yeah, it does look a little gloom and doom. My next version will be an attempt to correct this (probably by lowering the dark florescence caused by heavy contrast), but for now this is just a sample to give readers of this blog an idea of what I might end up doing, and to put everyone at ease who thinks I am neglecting to work on the darn thing.

 

Along with new cover designs, I also finally scanned all the composition notes I’ve made that are so valuable that losing them would mean the end of this project altogether. Fortunately I now have 200 DPI high-def ultra-realism scans are now backed up in almost a half-dozen locations, so that risk is no longer an issue. At this point it’s just a matter of making a bullet-point outline of every specific topic that will be discussed in each segment of each part of each section of each chapter of the book. Yep, I have it whittled down to the specifics, and soon it will be just a matter of actually writing the first draft.

 

This draft won’t take too long to do since I already have a clear idea of what I intend to write. Stringing together sentences is really half the task of writing a book. Or at least that’s the way it plays out for me. From there I just need to format it, make sure all the citations are accurate, make an index (easy to do: just search every letter with Ctrl+F and find any key words from there), finalize the cover, submit it, get a proof copy, and wash rinse repeat a couple times until the result looks good.

 

Until then, one of the bigger tasks I have is to get some reading done. The series I started on the selected bibliography for “State Exempt” will continue soon as well, and I do plan comprehend every last tidbit of wisdom from those works to hopefully enhance my own. However I think about 66-75% or so of the final draft of “State Exempt” will remain the same regardless of what I read until it gets done.

 

 

3. And for autodidacts… Speaking of reading necessary works that I find relevant to anything political I might write about, I have teamed up with a few people online to make what could be considered a Libertarian reading syllabus. Included will be study outlines for many of the most basic or necessary reads. The final result will be posted on a site called FreedomFiles.Info that appears to still be under construction. As the site makes clear, it does not cover anarchist topics. Free market anarchy is not relevant there because the site will deal with *government* policy, so far as I know.

 

In the process of this, I downloaded dozens (literally) of books off of Mises.org, and I recently bartered for a tablet that makes it way easier to finally read through them all. I can say it’s been a thrill to finally have countless books that can easily be read on the go while commuting. Wasted time is no longer as much of an issue.

 

Along with self-education through books, I have word that a group of people will soon be working on a software application that takes OpenCourseWare to a whole new level…

 

Ron Paul (or someone writing in his name) now has a new book out entitled, “The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System” which is basically a critique of government’s role in education. I can already tell I will enjoy it when I finally get a copy, and in addition to it, there is yet another book in the works by an economist I admire deeply that treads similar ground.

 

Bryan Caplan, probably best known as being the author who wrote the work of genius that is “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies” has another book in the works. The working title so far appears to be “The Case Against Education” with a subtitle of some kind that (rightfully) implies that the cost of schooling in the US is vastly overpriced compared to what you get in return. If this book turns out to be half as good as any of his prior books, then this is something I refuse to miss. School choice has been gaining some headway over the past couple decades and I do get the feeling that it will only continue to grow.

 

That being said, I cannot ignore the fact that there have been some setbacks from time to time under the Obama administration:

 

 

And not to mention the DOJ’s absurd lawsuit over the Louisiana voucher program. But despite these setbacks, the trend as a whole seems to be in favor of greater school choice. One successful program in Arizona has been getting some excellent legal headway in terms of whether or not the program is constitutional (of course it is, no religion is forced on anyone). And I could go on about the growth of charter schools and of course, homeschooling (which is growing seven times faster than traditional public schooling).

 

It’s that last trend that has me especially giddy as hell, for reasons that warrant a whole new post (maybe even a series) altogether. In short, the annual cost of homeschooling is typically around $500 for curricular materials. If such information could be delivered for free, than that would annihilate one of the biggest objections that teacher’s unions and the misinformed people who support them have towards any school choice measure: “OMG! Privatization meanz profit which is teh most evulzist thang eva cuz they get compensashun in raturn fo edjucating peoplez!!!”

 

Honestly, I feel somewhat optimistic about the future. In no way am I in any Pollyanna state of mind, but I do think the collapse of higher and lower education as we know it will be a key catalyst for other political reforms in the long run. More on that in a future post…

 

Until then I need to finish the shape restriction guide,  as well as that damn Defcad object series that never got done. And of course, the book this site was set up for in the first place. If procrastination paid well, then I think Occupy Wall Street would’ve hung me by now.