Morning Links

Monday, August 20th, 2012
By David Bratzer, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition


  • A Fistful of Freedom: Using 3D printers to distribute firearms around the world (via Dave Killion and the Libertarian Book Club).
  • Do you think this brochure will make officers safer… or more paranoid?
  • Police Need New Professionalism, by Christopher Stone: “There will always be a certain degree of force in policing. What matters is whether policing—when it asserts its authority—makes democratic progress possible or impedes it. Professional policing enhances democratic progress when it accounts for what it does, achieves public support, learns through innovation, and transcends parochialism.”
  • Automatic License Plate Recognition: In Minnesota, license plates are not considered private information. This means license plates in police ALPR databases are subject to FOI access requests by anyone in the state. What could possibly go wrong?

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31 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Scott Lazarowitz | 

    “What matters is whether policing—when it asserts its authority—makes democratic progress possible or impedes it. Professional policing enhances democratic progress when it accounts for what it does…”

    Don’t expect accountability with a central planning government monopoly.

    Local governments have a monopoly in community policing and security. The local population in each district are compelled by law to have to use this government monopoly for its “services,” with no alternatives allowed. Competing agencies are forbidden to exist.

    Compulsory government monopolies are inherently flawed and doomed from the get-go, because monopolists are not accountable. They are not concerned about “consumer satisfaction,” because they are guaranteed to be paid (and given bloated tax-coerced pensions) no matter how bad they are.

    How many “paid administrative leaves” do we hear about when a cop is actually “disciplined”? You see, no line of work is so “special” or “important” that it should be free from the pressures of competition.

    And also, local communities are no longer self-vigilant, as they have become extremely passive and dependent on the government police monopoly.

    Additionally, this government monopoly gives its employees artificial authority over others, with guns and badges. They are literally above the law. They do not have to follow the same rules of society and civility that the rest of us must follow and obey. We must obey THEM!

    And look at the kinds of people who are attracted to that kind of artificial authority and armed power. Is it any wonder that we have the problem with “law enforcement” that we have today?

    Free, open markets in security, and encouraging voluntary neighborhood watches, under the rule of law in which everyone must be accountable for one’s actions and no one is above the law – that’s what a true “civilized” society needs to be civilized.

    I know, a lot of people immediately reject such ideas because of many years of government worship, but in this age of the Bush-Obama-Romney police state, we really need to shake off those assumptions that some “services” are just too “important” to be removed from the unaccountable government monopolists.

  2. #2 |  DoubleU | 

    License plates… They have cameras in police cars that can scan license plates as the police car drives down the street. If there is a serious problem the officer driving the car knows immediately. By serious problem I mean an over-due library book. I think a city in Conn or Mass had cameras mounted to watch every license plate that came into the city… you know… so only the right kind of people enter the city.

  3. #3 |  MikeZ | 

    As an Engineer by trade, One of my biggest questions about gun control laws has been about how easy it is to just build your own weapon. Attempting to ban 500 yr old technology seems a bit strange. Then I would think well most people aren’t engineers and would have difficulty constructing a reliable weapon with the specialized technology involved (Although seems like a crossbow would be pretty easy to build, and those are outlawed in my state).
    With 3d printing looks like everyone may soon be able to manufacture a gun.

  4. #4 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I keep hearing about automatic whatnot recognition (license plate, face, etc.). And I keep having the deep suspicion that it ain’t that easy. How many stories have I read about red light cameras sending tickets to the wrong person because the system couldn’t differentiate between two similar plates? I think that before we even get to the more complex issues, there are going to be a LOT of wrong person arrests, based on sloppy work by people AND machines.

    Maybe that resulting lawsuits will dampen enthusiasm for this kind of thing.


  5. #5 |  AlgerHiss | 

    That brochure is one disgusting, creepy bit of nonsense. These people have a quite dangerous, inflated opinion of themselves.

    It may be too late, but this bunch needs a firm, friendly boot placed upon their neck.

  6. #6 |  whim | 

    Regarding the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance brochure directed towards the police, the only pronouncement that really gave me heartburn, was:

    “I must survive and go home to my loved ones.”

    Police have historically been paid to take some degree of risk, and as a result of this acceptance of a degree of risk to protect the public, then the police were held in high esteem by the general public.

    When the police adopted the US vs. THEM mindset present in the “I must survive and go home to my loved ones” mantra, then I do not see how that degree of esteem can still be justified.

    The police are now clearly transferring ALL the risk of a police encounter over to the citizenry.

    Witness the recent police firing squad that shot a homeless Saginaw MI man 46 times. The didn’t have ANY less-than-lethal countermeasures with which to subdue the mentally disturbed man?

    No pepper-spray?

    No metal clubs?

    No Mace?

    No Tasers?

    No bean-bag rounds in their shotguns?

    I also realize that the police boot-lickers in the mainstream media are an echo-chamber approving every police-state over-reaction, like pepper-spraying and clubbing non-violent Occupy protestors.

    The people are slowly awakening to the reality of the police “New Professionalism”, and our emerging police state.

  7. #7 |  Dave | 

    “officer safety” has to be one of the over hyped and misleading issues with police. Police work is not in the top ten most dangerous jobs, not even in the top twenty if you don’t count traffic accidents. If police want to take “officer safety” seriously then they should spend more time stressing the importance of driving safely. Police are taught to be paranoid and to consider all citizens a threat, a recipe for disaster.

  8. #8 |  llamas | 

    The idea of 3D printing of firearms is simply ludicrous and has already been thoroughly debunked elsewhere, eg at Samizdata. The reason being that there are already many ways to make effective ad-hoc firearms that are better, faster, more-accessible and cheaper than 3D printing. Whoever dreamed this idea up was enthralled by 3D printing to the point where they failed to grasp that it’s actually perhaps the least-effective way of doing what they are trying to promote. Sometimes, stunning new technologies and powerful software are NOT the answer.



  9. #9 |  Dave | 

    Got a link to that debunking? I’m curious to see that, seeing that functional AR15 lowers have been printed, on printers that can also print most of the parts needed to make a second printer. Sure, stamped weapons like a Sten are more efficient to build, but 3d printers are a fun way to point the inevitable failure of gun control and fly the nerd flag at the same time.

    An another note, police don’t need a new professionalism, they need the old professionalism of Sir Robert Peel.

  10. #10 |  Marty | 

    the comments on the cameras are solidly against the government- the author did a good job on this one. Can these cameras pick up a motorcycle plate? I’m surprised we haven’t seen a ‘cop stalking ex-wife’ story yet…

  11. #11 |  Dante | 

    RE: New Police Professionalism

    There was a time when the Police were America’s Finest. As a child, I often heard adults say “If you get lost, or have any trouble at all when away from home, go find a police officer and he will help you”.

    Today, the greatest threat to your child’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is an encounter with a police officer. No longer America’s Finest, they are now the dregs of society – perverts, sadists, steroid monsters and alcoholics. They operate with near-perfect immunity for their actions no matter how stupid or savage or criminal. They will cheat, lie, steal, assault, and even murder the citizens they swore an oath to protect and serve, and cannot be held accountable. The “Blue Wall of Silence” is exactly the same as obstruction of justice and conspiracy (a crime when YOU do it, not them). Teach your children to avoid the police at all costs just as you would teach them about a poisonous snake.

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  12. #12 |  Christopher Swing | 

    I’d like to see this “thorough debunking” myself. llamas. Because 3D printing will never, ever get better, and hasn’t been improving at all.

    That’s why we’re all really accessing this message board via 300 baud modem on our Apple IIs and Atari 800s.

  13. #13 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I think that the debate about 3-D printing is missing a bit of an issue; guns are a great deal LESS complex and mysterious than they are presented to be by a largely Pro Gun Control media. The principles are dead simple, and while the detains may seem endless they are also mostly secondary (especially if you are talking about arming the kind of rabble that adhere’s to the ‘spray and pray’ philosophy, which is most of them).

    3-D printing of guns is a story only because the media flunky (I won’t call him a reporter) reporting it has never read up on zip-guns. Yes, some day it will be possible to make a fully functional modern gun with a 3-D printing system. That won’t make obtaining a gun good enough to kill somebody materially easier.

  14. #14 |  llamas | 

    I’m not saying that 3D printers can’t be used to make functioning firearms – they can, and have been.

    What I’m saying is that using 3D printers to make massively-distrubuted firearms is an extraordinarily-silly way to achieve that goal, because functional fireams can be made by much-easier, much-simpler and much-more-accessible means than 3D printing.

    As I observed in the Samizdata discussion

    – you can make an effective, reusable firearm with minimal skills using unremarkable tools and materials that can be bought at any Walmart, and less than an hour of work, and all for less than $50, including ammunition.

    – the Afridis of the Khyber Pass have been making perfect, and perfectly-functional, patterns of complex military small-arms for more than a century, using only scrap metal and the simplest hand tools.

    – the most-complex part of any firearm using fixed ammunition is actually the ammunition, and there’s no developement of 3D printing, now or contemplated, that is going to be able to make that anytime.

    I’m a mechanical engineer with more than 30 years experience and I’ve been using 3D printers since they were first generally available, in the early 1990s. I have three of them in my development shop, right now. I’m also very familiar with firearms technology and development. If the goal is to make simple and effective firearms widely-available, then using 3D printers is just about the least-effective way to achieve that goal. Compared to all the alternatives, they are excessively-costly, excessively-complex and they produce a vastly-inferior product. It’s like using a 500-ton punch-press to crack a walnut. You can do it, and it’s a lot of fun, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.



  15. #15 |  Brian | 

    Yes, having license plate info readily available can be used by stalkers, bosses, etc. However, if the information is already being collected then I want it readily available to everyone. Freedom of information!

  16. #16 |  Psion | 

    Llamas … since you’ve been using 3D printers since the 1990s, you also know they’ve improved considerably since then. The print resolution has improved, the range of print materials has broadened, and the cost of ownership has fallen. Those are trends that are likely to continue. 3D printing is in its infancy still … roughly akin to the late 70s for microcomputers; they’re just starting to catch on and can be useful, but haven’t yet reached their full potential.

  17. #17 |  llamas | 


    ‘The print resolution has improved, . . ”

    Yes – but not by much. The best you can get in a realistic machine these days is about ± 0.005″, which is a plowed field as far as firearms parts are concerned.

    ‘the range of print materials has broadened, . . ”

    Yes, but not by much. It’s still mostly low-end thermoplastics. The metallic processes all still require complex and costly post-processing – sintering and the like – and then they still require finishing to get the kind of finish and accuracies required. If you’re going to finish a metal part to the required standard, why not just finish a metal part?

    ‘the cost of ownership has fallen.’

    True enough – but a 3D printer is still considerably more-costly than a decent firearm, and the material cost is still amazingly-high.

    What got all this kerfuffle started, and produced the amazingly-inane media responses, was the fact that somebody successfully grew an AR-15 lower receiver in a 3D printer, using a plastic material. By a quirk of US law, the lower is the part with the serial number and therefore it’s what makes the gun a gun as far as the law is concerned.

    But it’s also a quirk of the AR-15 design that the lower receiver is the lowest-stress part of the whole weapon. It holds the fire-control parts and some other bits-and-bobs, but it doesn’t have to withstand any of the bang-going forces – all of that takes place in the upper receiver and the attached barrel group. Those familar with the AR-15 will know that you can use the upper receiver assembly alone as a single-shot firearm, it doesn’t actually need a lower receiver at all.. The lower could quite-well be made of triple-wall corrugated cardboard, suitably shaped and glued, and the gun would function fine.

    That level of detail went beyond the liberal-arts majors who populate the media, and they all started yelling about how you could grow an AR-15 in a 3D printer. Try explaining to them that all of the actual high-pressure working parts of this magic gun were taken from an entirely-conventional arm, and nobody in his right mind would try and copy an AR-15 upper receiver on a 3D printer and try and shoot it – their eyes will glaze over. They heard the words ‘3D printer plastic gun’ and that’s all it took.

    I can quite-well believe that 3D printing will develop to the point where it’s possible to grow a functioning firearm. But that time is a long way off. Feel free to call me when it is in sight. In the meantime, it’s simply inane to suggest that this project makes any sort of sense, technically or economically. Even if the time comes when this is possible, it’s very unlikely that it will be an economical alternative. If the goal is spreading the ability to make effective firearms to great numbers of people, the ability exists to do that today, and no 3D printing is required to make it happen.



  18. #18 |  EH | 

    Man, that police brochure tells me there are probably a shitload of companies snowing officers and departments with training classes that make them worse cops. The fright scam must run deep on both sides of the badge.

  19. #19 |  En Passant | 

    #5 | AlgerHiss wrote August 20th, 2012 at 8:20 am:

    That brochure is one disgusting, creepy bit of nonsense. These people have a quite dangerous, inflated opinion of themselves.

    Not to mention a stupid and unsupportable opinion of copyright law. Hint: government cannot hold domestic copyright on material that government creates.

    The last sentence in the brochure:

    This material may not be duplicated or reproduced without permission of the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Looks like we’re all federal criminals now.

    Yada yada yada! Come and get me, warden!

  20. #20 |  kant | 

    RE: license plate tracking

    Perhaps a skilled legal mind can help me out here (after all i’m just an armchair analyst) but wouldn’t the tracking time and location of license plates be comparable to gps tracking? And wouldn’t that mean it would be illegal (without a warrant) considering United States v. Jones ruled gps tracking (without a warrant) was a violation of 4th amendment rights?

  21. #21 |  Mattocracy | 

    “Man, that police brochure tells me there are probably a shitload of companies snowing officers and departments with training classes”

    Most definitely. It’s an aspect of the Police Industrial Complex.

  22. #22 |  Mannie | 

    #20 | kant | August 20th, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    wouldn’t the tracking time and location of license plates be comparable to gps tracking?

    Without reading the actual decision (admittedly a risky proposition) I would say probably not, because the decision only referred to GPS and not cameras and computers. Now, whether it can be stretched to apply would require another pass or three through the appeals courts. The gummint gets to stretch the rules all out of shape, and you must prove they are wrong.

    The Enemy never sleeps.

  23. #23 |  liberranter | 

    Police Need New Professionalism, by Christopher Stone: “There will always be a certain degree of force in policing. What matters is whether policing—when it asserts its authority—makes democratic progress possible or impedes it. Professional policing enhances democratic progress when it accounts for what it does, achieves public support, learns through innovation, and transcends parochialism.”

    There’s no polite way to put this, no matter how hard I’ve searched for it, so here it is:

    Any discussion of “democratic progress” with the lowly beat cop (the type most of us are likely to encounter in those potentially lethal situations where a badged, gun-toting bully decides to exercise his ‘authoritah’ for no other reason than that he can) is an idiotic exercise in intellectual and verbal masturbation. Today’s lowly cop doesn’t give two shits or a damn about “democratic progress,” the “Bill of Rights,” “due process of law,” or any other concepts behind a free society, concepts that supposedly underpin his “duty” to “protect and serve” (these two things being the most idiotic and threadbare of myths) – and neither do the higher-ups and the politicians who are his masters. Indeed, it is unlikely that today’s typical beat cop has the intellectual capacity to even comprehend these concepts, much less pay them any respect or “serve” in accordance with their precepts.

    In the interests of keeping the closest thing he’ll ever have to a “job,” the lowly beat cop’s SOLE concern is to keep the proles in line IAW his puppeteers’ wishes. If that means behaving like some synthesis of Luca Brasi, Oday Hussein, and Vlad the Impaler, then so be it. But of course these ends have nothing even remotely to do with “democratic progress” anyway, so it’s a moot argument to begin with.

  24. #24 |  Woog | 

    The vast majority of information in that AIM brochure is something every single American should be practicing. Basically: be polite, be aware, be prepared, plan for the worst while hoping for the best.

    There are far more disconcerting sources of propaganda than the AIM brochure. From the ancient DHS declarations that Constitutionalist and “single issue” voters were likely domestic terrorists to the most recent harping on that same tune, we need to be aware of the growth of government outside its lawful bounds and find a proper method to remove the criminal actors and elements and restore the rule of law.

    DHS still calling liberty lovers terrorists:

  25. #25 |  croaker | 

    You left out Todd Akin, poster child for retroactive birth control.

  26. #26 |  supercat | 

    //The lower could quite-well be made of triple-wall corrugated cardboard, suitably shaped and glued, and the gun would function fine.//

    What parts of a firearm other than the barrel itself would need to have particularly fine tolerances? Certainly having finer tolerances on parts will allow the use of smaller and lighter designs, and will also make it easier to control wear, but I would expect that it wouldn’t be hard to come up with a firearm design in which every part other than the barrel was either 3d-printed or was some reasonably commonplace “stock” object. A skilled person could probably crank out barrels for use with such a firearm faster than such a person could crank out entire weapons.

  27. #27 |  bbartlog | 

    The chamber, firing pin, and (highly desirable anyway) feed and ejection mechanisms should all really be manufactured to tolerances better than +/0.005″. Really, listen to llamas. 3D printing is just one way of making stuff, with its own peculiar strengths and weaknesses. It happens not to be all that suitable for making firearms. Or for mass production of any kind.

  28. #28 |  Eric Y | 

    On 3D firearms printing.

    Llamas is 100% correct. Stereolithography and similar technologies are mainly for rapid prototyping and that the tolerances are cruddy for precision work. It’s cool from a gadget point of view and .005″ might not sound like much (slightly over the thickness of a sheet of paper) but 0.005-0.010″ are considered fairly “wide open” generic tolerances. I routinely deal with stuff in the sub 0.001″ range. Competition-grade firearm barrels are often air-gauged to 0.0005″. That is a bit less than 1/100th the thickness of a sheet of paper. You will never print that. You can’t even machine that. It requires secondary grinding or rifling operations to achieve such tolerances and smooth finishes. Parts like that generally have requirements of finishes that are less than 8μin, or eight millionths of an inch.

    I will reiterate that 3D printing of the AR15 lower receiver is not special. There are existing commercial products, plastic composite lower receivers, on the market. It’s basically a shell to hang onto the receiver extension and the fire control group. It happens to be the serialized part of the gun, making this specific part “the gun” when every other part that can be purchased is unregulated by the ATF.

    The NATO pressure specs for a 5.56mm cartridge at maximum pressure is about 62,000 psi, and about 55,000PSI for SAAMI specified .223 Remington ammunition. This is handled by the bolt and barrel. Not even modern MIM (“metal injection molding”) powdered metallurgical sintering manufacturing techniques have replaced traditional machining operations for these parts. The parts need additional treatment like heat treatment and shot peening to compact the surface grain of the heat treated metal to prevent dimensional change and increase toughness under such high pressure spikes. There are a whole host of operations that can never be duplicated by a one-shot 3D printing operation or even current manufacturing in one single step. These things take many processes to complete. You’re not going to print a gun with a 3D printer that matches a traditionally manufactured gun, EVER, based off our current understanding of engineering, physics, and even extrapolating what is possible or probable given the future of this technology. You’d have to get into molecular assembly to clone guns to bypass traditional manufacturing.

    This is the black market gun market in Pakistan that someone mentioned. Basic hand and power tools churning out clones of every kind of conceivable gun.

  29. #29 |  Eric Y | 

    Left off a zero, it should be air-gauged to 0.00005″, 50 millionths of an inch.

  30. #30 |  supercat | 

    #28 | Eric Y | //Competition-grade firearm barrels are often air-gauged to 0.0005″//

    Certainly, the barrel (including the chamber) must be made to very fine tolerances for a firearm to have any usable accuracy, and having tight tolerances on moving parts will allow things to be smaller and lighter than would be possible with sloppy tolerances, while nonetheless offering better reliability. I would think, though, that one could probably design a firearm which would work pretty well with the barrel as the only “custom” part which had to be precisely manufactured, with just about everything else either being some type of object that was commonly used for some other purpose, or else being subjected to a limited amount of stress and not requiring extreme precision. For example, in a typical firearm design, the assembly containing the breech block is required to fit precisely with the object in which or upon which it slides to avoid binding, but I would think it might be possible to have a crude metal inner bolt ride in a carrier with slightly rounded ends, using something slightly elastic to keep it centered, in such a way that axial forces on the carrier would always pull rather than push it. Some structure with good tensile strength would have to transfer the axial forces on the bolt to the barrel, but I would think that could be as simple as a metal block which moves between the bolt and a rear block, which is fastened to the barrel via metal rods. The overall number of parts required would likely be higher than if one was exclusively using quality parts, and reliability and longevity would likely not be as good, but a firearm that was designed from the ground up to be 90% produceable via crummy techniques could probably work pretty well.

  31. #31 |  John Spragge | 

    I think llamas and Eic Y pretty much made it clear: no means of building a weapon that could compete with a military firearm using generally available prototyping techniques currently exists, and no likely development of existing technologies will change that. I want to challenge the idea that we should concern ourselves with making firearms more generally available. Specifically, it seems to me that a mass popular mobilization rarely needs violence to succeed (think Ukraine, Egypt, Tunisia, and before that Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia), and a politically isolated group will almost always fail, whatever their access to arms or their willingness to use violence (think the US militia movement of the mid 90s). Aside from that, consider that through the history of the twentieth century at least, movements that have relied primarily on violence have tended to produce very bad results, along the lines of “meet the new boss, worse than the old boss”.