A debate is raging in the United States about plastic guns. Should the government prevent people from using 3-D printing technology to build plastic guns? Should the citizens who have blueprints for making plastic guns be allowed to upload them for public use? These are questions for the courts to decide, and they’re doing just that on Friday in Seattle.
But there are larger questions underpinning the debate. Is it ethically acceptable to create nearly undetectable guns at home? Is it ethical to release to the public the blueprints for how to make them? In other words, just because we can does it mean we should?
“There are really three different scenarios to consider here from an ethics standpoint,” said John Basl, an assistant professor of philosophy at Northeastern.
Is it appropriate for the government to restrict and regulate what people 3-D print? What is appropriate for an individual to print, regardless of government regulation? And should the companies that manufacture 3-D printing technology restrict their capabilities?