Unmarked assault rifle sales land CNC-mill gunsmith in prison

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/02/22/unmarked-assault-rifle-sales-l.html


“I’m sick of these immigrants using loopholes to get around laws!”


“And I would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for those meddling Feds!”


This is good news because it thwarts people who wish to go to great lengths to secretly possess mass-killing tools.

It’s possibly bad news because it moves in the direction of “providing tools to make something makes you responsible for what the tools make”. Is this precedent going to be used in future to prosecute someone for providing G-code files? Or a 3D model? How about a photo of a gun next to a ruler? And how will the idea extend to things other than guns?


That rifle has one function only, to kill humans.


I don’t agree; what has was doing was exactly what happened in the old days when celebrities “launched” ships by hitting them a champagne bottle. If he had succeeded it would next have been mail order guns where you clicked on a webpage button to “make” the gun. That would be the slippery slope - e.g. making patented items for personal use only is legal, so stuff you and your patents, Apple, when the customer clicks on this button he makes an exact copy of an iPhone. In China, half price. Seems I have this wrong. I was thinking of English law where you cannot recover damages if someone makes a patented item for personal use - though you can stop them using it if you find out.

In the examples you give someone actually has to do the work, e.g. loading the G codes into the CNC is the easiest part of the job, you have to configure it, sharpen and index the tools. His customers did none of this and they did not own or lease the equipment.


I think you’re worrying too much. This case is much more specific than that and largely says that just having a person press a button or touch a machine is not enough for that person to manufacture the gun instead of the machinist. It doesn’t make providing the GCode or the machines the problem the issue was that the customer had zero involvement in the. It’s unfortunately unclear exactly how much involvement the customer must have but there’s a long way between this ruling saying “the customer pushing the button to start the machine or touching it does not count as them manufacturing it so you are manufacturing and transferring guns without a license” to “someone made a gun using your machine therefor you are responsible.”


I’m perplexed over the assumption the machinist took here. It doesn’t sound like he checked with a lawyer first to make sure if ATF caught wind of what he was doing he’d be covered. He just figured he found a clever loophole, it’s sad that it landed him in jail but ATF is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Even if the customer pushed the button he is still majorly assisting in creating the blanks since it’s his equipment.


Obviously this is an extreme example and the idea would need to be pushed further to become menacing. But although it doesn’t travel far, it sets a clear direction of travel.

If this guy wants to continue his business, his next move is to pretend to be a general CNC service, and if people happen to find a website somewhere with all the toolpaths ready to run on his exact setup, well, he can’t help that. So then a judge that wanted to shut him down would be tempted to say that a CNC bureau is responsible for what its customers make, and so on.

If I ran a “genuine” business machining metal parts to order, I would already be thinking “hmm, I should probably start turning down jobs that look like gun parts”. And that in turn would probably get me worrying about copyright infringement. The default assumption would be that a CNC place isn’t liable for such things, in the same way Kinko’s isn’t liable for customers copying books, but maybe this will change.

PS there actually isn’t any “personal use” protection for patents – rightsholders can sue you for making a patented design in your garage if they know about it.


Well there goes Obama, taking away all your guns!


Might as well sue the maker of the hammer because the hammer could be used to kill people.

Frankly while I’m glad this asshole got put in prison, I share your concern that this will be pointed at by the pearl clutchers at why 3d printing needs firmware level securities and oversight.


They way you describe it, as a CNC operator not knowing for sure what a customer is having them make is pretty reasonable in that the operator isn’t liable, but they can use their judgement to decline to fabricate certain items. This guy in particular, from the story, clearly knew what was being fabricated and was trying to use a flimsy loophole to defer guilt.


Seems like it’s not really traveling anywhere much. It’s affirming that you can’t say “that person machined that item for themself” if all the work was actually done by you.

It’s a difference between allowing someone to use your tools, and you using your tools to build something to order.


This guy is an idiot. The law is very clear about home made guns. You can make your own, you can’t sell them. You can’t have other people make them. Most people who do it are hobbyists and have to use jigs and a decent drill press.

The thing is, even in CA AR lower receivers are under $100 and you can get them from any licensed FFL.

So this is like people caught for making and selling moonshine, when you can just goto the store and buy booze.

The only part that will get you in trouble is the actual receiver, which will look like something when you’re done. That and most machinists know what a gun receiver looks like.


Oh, great! Now how am I going to get something to defend myself from my imagination?


Same old way, make your own gun. Just because it requires training and skill to avoid killing yourself in the process should encourage everyone who wants to do such things!


Crowninshield, if that is his real name, is some kind of idiot.

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Home brewing?


In the production of alcohol the laws around that are more concerned with taxation, and is primarily set up as a way to ensure that the people making hard alcohol are legitimate businesses. With guns i’m not entirely convinced that it’s a 1 to 1 parallel with alcohol.


But what if all the work was actually done by a robot owned by you? That’s arguably the case here. Once everything’s set up, the work of making a gun may indeed consist of nothing more than mounting a workpiece and pushing the button to start the program.

The CNC owner may well have done work to create the G-code originally, but if that’s where the liability comes from then clearly that’s a problem because it means writing code makes you liable for what’s done with it in future.