Re: TECHNOLOGY AND TRUST (LONG), was Re: some U.S. observations and notes

From: James Rogers (
Date: Sat Dec 29 2001 - 12:14:48 MST

On 12/29/01 10:03 AM, "Michael M. Butler" <> wrote:
> A loaded gun is just a couple of ounces of low explosive wrapped in metal.
> I know you could go to a hardware store and make one for $10, and there is
> nothing
> I can do about it, so I live my life confident that you are probably part of
> the
> 99.99%, absent obvious clues to the contrary.

There is an interesting story about a court case involving the definition of
possession of a weapon that could "easily be converted to a machinegun". A
man in possession of a nominally legal firearm was charged with possession
of an illegal machinegun, not because the firearm WAS a machinegun but
because it COULD be made into a machinegun by a sufficiently knowledgeable
machinist. (A famously typical response by the ATF; when an investigation
turns up no obvious wrongdoing, charge the individual with an implausible
stretch of a regulatory definition and see what sticks.)

The regulatory definition provided by the BATF was that a "machinegun" was
any device, not necessarily an operating firearm, that could be turned into
an operating machinegun by a competent machinist in no more than 8 hours,
the definition used by the prosecutor. To demonstrate the absurdity of such
a definition (which was regulatory, not statutory), the defense hired a
machinist with the proper licensing to manufacture a functioning machinegun
using nothing but an old car that they had retrieved from a junk yard. The
machinist was able to manufacture and test fire a machinegun (of very
dubious quality) from the car carcass in less than 8 hours. The judge
agreed that the BATF definition was ridiculous, as the defense had
demonstrated that everyone who owned a car could be legitimately indicted
under it. I don't recall the final outcome of the case, though the ATF was
forced to use a much more rigorous regulatory definition of machinegun.

I don't really have a point to this story, other than to illustrate that
with 21st century manufacturing technology, there is absolutely nothing you
could do to prevent anyone with even the slightest inclination or profit
motive from manufacturing 19th century weapon designs. The exponential
take-off in technology applies to fabrication as well as silicon. For very
little money today, a person can buy tooling that is more sophisticated and
capable than that which produced most of the weapons in use in the world
today. We don't have to wait for garage nanotech to happen before we'll be
facing this issue.

-James Rogers

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