'Ole Miss' researching tracing the 'untraceable' 3D-printed plastic guns

Cody Wilson: a self-proclaimed "open source activist."
The former UT law student has been in the national spotlight since he put blueprints for a 3D-printed plastic gun called "The Liberator" online back in 2013.
It was all plastic except for the metal firing pin. The legal battles between Wilson, his company "Defense Distributed" and the federal government went on for years.

In a 2018 press conference Wilson announced a recent order only stopped him from giving the files away so instead he would sell them, e-mail them or use a secure transfer. "I will be doing all of those things now.  My congratulations to the Attorneys General for saving America," Wilson said.

Last week Wilson was sentenced to seven years of deferred adjudication probation for having sex with an under aged girl.  Different story.

As for plastic guns, the undetectable nature of them can be a challenge. The TSA happened to catch one they called a "replica" in a carry-on bag in Nevada back in 2016.  Armed with live ammo.

Plastic guns are also untraceable with no serial numbers.

According to the University of Mississippi, 'Ole Miss' chemistry professor James Cizdziel and graduate student Oscar Black are researching methods for analyzing the type of polymer used in the guns from flecks or smears of plastic on bullets or gunshot residue on clothing.

The researchers say the work is useful for investigating crimes involving 3D-printed guns -- including a "growing reference library" of polymers for law enforcement to check.

Austin second amendment advocate Michael Cargill says that research is important if you don't know who committed the crime. He's not a fan of plastic guns though.  

In his experience guns like Wilson's "Liberator" are unstable. "I don't know anyone that is a fan of those.  People want reliable firearms.  They want something that when they pull the trigger it's going to go 'bang,' they don't want something that could blow up in their hands or their face," Cargill said.  

But he points out, 3D-printing of guns and in general...is not going anywhere. "We've seen it in episodes of Star Trek: you go to the machine, you ask for 'Tea, Earl Grey, hot' it spits it out.  It is the way of the future, it's going to happen, so we might as well brace ourselves because it's coming."

Ole Miss says the graduate student involved graduated in May but the research is ongoing -- including the expansion of that polymer reference library.