The power of the Internet has never been better exemplified than in the circus that has followed what would probably be seen as a run-of-the-mill police arrest in the United States, but a prosecutable crime in japan. Indeed the incident is being touted by certain free speech advocates and the deep-pocketed ‘intellectuals’ who run the gun-ownership lobby, the NRA (National Rifle Association), as an example of everything that some Americans see as being wrong with the rest of the world.
First things first… on Tuesday May 8, 2014, Japanese police arrested 27-year-old Yoshitomo Imura, a university official from Kawasaki City. Imura made the mistake of posting a video of himself firing a 3D-printed six-shooter called the Zig Zag revolver. Imura, an employee of the conservative and publicly funded Shonan Institute of Technology, was able to set a plan in motion after purchasing a $500 home 3D printer at discount through the university.
The real problem began not so much because Mr. Imura actually did the deed, as making 3-D copies of weapons seems to be becoming an accepted hobby worldwide. The trouble originated after Imura printed and fired the Zig Zag in a video posted 25 weeks ago. Watch the video below and you’ll see him assemble the simple gun and fire movie-style blanks, which are freely available at Japanese sports stores. Just how this video made it onto television is unknown, although it’s a fair bet that Mr. Imura may have mailed in the video to a famous Tokyo current affairs show himself.
Keeping in mind that countries like the United States and Italy have particularly lax weapons ownership laws, we must remember that this is not the case in most countries. The law in Japan is very specific and prohibits possession of a “firearm, handgun part, handgun ammunition, imitation handgun, or a mock arm with intent to sell; import of an Article 3-4 Handgun, a handgun part, or handgun ammunition; conveyance of an Article 3-4 Handgun, a handgun part, or handgun ammunition; receipt of an Article 3-4 Handgun, a handgun part, or handgun ammunition; the firing of an Article 3-4 Handgun in a public place such as a public road, park, station, theater, and department store or on or at public transportation; the carrying of a sword with a blade length of greater than six centimeters, or an imitation sword,” according to Tech Crunch.
After the video was shown on Japanese television, there was a public outcry from liberals and ‘hobbyist’ supporters before a swarm of Swat-trained police raided Imura’s home and found five 3D-printed guns and the low-budget 3D printer. It will take a while to sort out the charges Imura will face, but beyond a handful of 3D advocates, nobody seems to question the law. From a Japanese point of view, a firearm is a firearm.
Yet 3D printing advocates in some circles were up in arms. Imura’s guns, which only fired blanks, were simple test models called the Zig-Zag. Now, in honor of Imura’s work in 3D printing, a CAD designer has created a newer, better gun that could be used to fire real bullets.
Stepping into the, umm, breech, is a new anonymous character who refers to his bad self as WarFairy. Mr. Fairy is just one member of a team of like-minded creators called the Free Open Source Software & Computer Aided Design. A very avid Tweeter-type, Mr. Fairy has been showing off vivid photos of the guns he has designed. Indeed, if you press on these images, you’ll see some pretty sophisticated prototypes. To be fair to Mr. Fairy, he does emphasize that these weapons have never been fired and that he is not a U.S. citizen, but the truth and the big picture in general are difficult to ascertain as long as he chooses to remain anonymous.