Texas Law Student Creates Plastic Gun That Fires Real Bullet From 3-D Printer

May 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

RAY SUAREZ: Now to a new wrinkle in the gun debate tied to ever-speeding advances in technology.

For the first time, this weekend, a plastic gun created by a 3-D printer successfully fired a real bullet. That success, starring on its own promotional video, has stirred up many questions and concerns about its potential impact.

The world’s first fully functioning 3-D printable handgun is the brainchild of Cody Wilson, a University of Texas law student. Dubbed the “Liberator,” it’s fashioned from 15 plastic parts created on an $8,000 dollar three-dimensional printer. The technology is already commonly used in various industries.

A printer lays down melted polymer filaments layer by layer according to precise digital blueprints to form solid plastic objects. That means the Liberator would be undetectable to airport security screeners and therefore illegal. The only metal in the gun is the common household nail used as a firing pin and a six-ounce piece of metal added to ensure the weapon is detectable to comply with current law.

But there are other questions. Wilson’s nonprofit gunned advocate group, Defense Distributed, is publishing the design files online, so anyone in the world can download the blueprints and print a Liberator, all of this without a background check or any serial number.

The group is also developing 3-D printable components for high-capacity automatic weapons. It posted video of test-firings earlier this year.