Guns in America: The DIY Specter

In my last Guns in America post I talked about how technology may hold the promise to make guns safer. That is by producing smart guns that recognize the owner and prevent firing by anyone else. There is another aspect of technology that could dramatically change gun ownership and make it anything but safer. That technology is 3-D printing and it can and has already been used to manufacture guns.

3-D printed guns need not be registered and may be printed by felons, suspected terrorists, people with mental illnesses, minors and others who may be restricted from conventional gun ownership. You don’t go through a background check before you print your own gun. 3-D guns aren’t traceable by law enforcement. Made of plastic, they can pass by metal detectors in the airport, in government buildings and in stadiums and arenas and are easily destroyed if the sheriff’s on your tail..

The first 3-D printed gun was produced by a 30-something Texan named Cody Wilson, a self-described crypto-anarchist, whatever that is. In 2013 he produced a plastic pistol called the Liberator. Wilson founded a company called Defense Distributed. One of the goals of Defense Distributed was to make the blueprints for 3-D printed guns freely available online. Below is a screenshot of Defense Distributed’s page which offers a schema for the 3-D printing of an AR-15 rifle. (The AR-15 is the rifle used by the hater in Pittsburgh to murder 11 people in a synagogue last Saturday.) 

add to sell specs for 3-D printed rifle

The company also sells a machine called the Ghost Gunner which can be used to carve gun components out of aluminum. They claim to have sold 6,000 of these units.

One of Wilson’s other ventures was a crowd-funding Web site called Hatreon which catered to the nazis and white supremacists who go kicked off of the more mainstream sites. Just last month we got a further look into Wilson’s character when he was arrested in Taiwan and accused of sexual assault. The charges stem from Wilson having allegedly paid a 16-year-old girl $500 for sex after having met her on the dating site Taiwan doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S. but the Taiwanese apparently wanted nothing to do with this guy and shipped him right back. Wilson has since resigned his position at Defense Distributed.

Wilson’s plans to make the blueprints for 3-D printing of guns available on the internet set off a long string of litigation. After the Liberator was unveiled in 2013 the Obama State Department issued a restraining order to prevent Defense Distributed from making the schemata openly available online. Two years later the company, along with a gun advocacy group called the Second Amendment Foundation, sued the State Department claiming the restraining order was a violation of their First Amendment rights. Then along came Trump and this past July the State Department settled with Defense Distributed, not only allowing them to publish their gun printing blueprints but actually paying part of their legal fees.

That settlement, which was due to go into effect Aug. 1, prompted a suit by eight states, including New Jersey, to block the publication of the gun blueprints. They got a favorable ruling from Seattle Federal Judge Robert Lasnik who opined “the states are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn and that, over all, the public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo through the pendency of this litigation.” Since that ruling the number of states that joined the lawsuit has grown to 19.

The Defense Distributed home page now looks like this:

screenshot of DD homepage

Wilson has nonetheless continued to make the gun blueprints available. He claims he is following the judge’s ruling to not make them freely available on the Web site but is instead charging for them (pay what you wish) and shipping them off via email.

Yesterday the New Jersey State Legislature passed a bill that prohibits the distribution of programming files used to create guns on 3-D printers and bans the purchase or assembly of gun components without serial numbers. The vote in the state Senate was 31-0.

In the history of the internet we have not seen a government or an industry or a law that has been completely successful in shutting off the flow of information. Wilson, who is likely on his way to jail, can be shutdown, but there are many others ready to take his place. As Vox reporter German Lopez comments: “The technology is out there, and the information is inevitably going to end up on the internet at some point.”

If it’s any consolation I did find a comment on a reddit group by a guy who calls himself SpoopyTheGreat and claims to be a gun advocate and an experienced 3-D printer operator saying of these plastic guns “I just want to say that I would never consider firing one of these. Basically, you’d be lucky to fire more than a couple of shots before having that small shrapnel bomb of a gun detonate a few feet from your face.” Sounds like chaos.


Other Guns in America posts

Who Fired the First Shot?

The Americanization of the Duel

Prominent Americans Shooting Each Other Up

‘Well Regulated’ Militias and the Right to Bear Arms

Where’s the Blaze of Glory

Prohibition and Gun Control

Smart Guns and the Folks Who Keep ‘Em Dumb

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Picasso’s Women

La Danse

La Danse, 1925

Picasso has an almost legendary reputation as a womanizer. He also has a reputation as a misogynist. He has been quoted as commenting “for me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats.” He supposedly made that remark at age 61 to 21-year-old art student Francoises Gilot, with whom he would have a 10-year affair,.

London Telegraph art critic Marc Hudson describes Picasso’ portrayal of women as follows: “alongside images of exquisite tenderness are women pulled and gouged into tortured shapes, women cut in bits and reconfigured on the canvas.” Of the seven most important women in Picasso’s life, two committed suicide, two went crazy and another died of natural causes four years into their relationship.

Photos (except for the last drawing) are from the Musée National Picasso in Paris.

Buste de femme au chapeau

Buste de femme au chapeau (bust of woman with hat), 1941

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which Picasso preferred to call Le Bordel d’Avignon, depicts five nude prostitutes from Avignon Street in Barcelona.

Etude pour Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

Étude pour Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (Young ladies of Avignon),. 1907

At the time Picasso painted La Fermiere, he was married to but separated from Olga Koklova, a Russian ballerina he had married in 1918; having an affair with Marie-Theresa Walter who gave birth to his first daughter; and had just met Surrealist photographer Dora Maar, who would be his lover into the 40’s.

La Fermi‏ère (the farmer's wife), 1938

La Fermi‏ère (the farmer’s wife), 1938

There are many Picasso works titled Tête de Femme (Woman’s Head). Several were painted in 1939 alone and were inspired by Maar.

Tete de Femme

Tête de Femme, 1939

The women with a pillow is Jacqueline Roque, his last wife, who he married in 1961 at age 79.

Femme a l'oreiller

Femme à l’oreiller, 1969

Science et Charite

Radiographic image of Science et Charité. Part of restoration done at Museo Picasso in Barcelona.

The drawing below is of Genevieve Laporte who had an affair with Picasso in the 1950’s. (There was a modest 50-year age difference between the two.)  She originally met Picasso when she was an art student interviewing him for her school magazine. Laporte later wrote a book titled “Un amour secret de Picasso.” This drawing was used as the cover for some editions of the book.

Geneviewe Laporte book cover




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Guns in America: Smart Guns and the Folks Who Keep ‘Em Dumb

  • There are an estimated 4.6 million children living in U.S. households with guns that are kept unlocked and loaded. (Huffington Post
  • Boy with gun

    (Image by Mojpe)

    In 2016, 3,000 children were unintentionally shot, and 127 were killed in shootings, often with improperly stored guns.

  • School shootings like the one in Sandy Hook involved minors taking guns belonging to adults.
  • Thousands of guns are stolen every year and sold on the black market.
  • Studies have shown that most of the guns used in criminal assault are not owned by the perpetrator.  (Buzzfeed
  • A number of suicides are committed with guns that are owned by another person, sometimes a family member. 
  • More than 5 percent of police officers killed in the line of duty are shot with their own weapons.

Technology offers what is at least a partial answer for all of these problems. It’s called the smart gun and it’s smart because it can identify the owner of a weapon and prevent anyone else from firing it. A number of smart guns have been developed using different technologies including fingerprint scanners like we use to unlock our phones, PINs, radio frequency identification (RFID) and biometric sensors. There are also location guns that use geometric fencing to restrict the firing of a gun to a fixed geographic area. That would suit the gun owner who wants the gun for the purpose of protecting his or her home or place of business. Location technology could also alert a gun owner if a gun was removed from its proper location or restrict the firing of a gun in certain places, like schools or police stations.

Smart guns have been around for a couple decades. The location gun was invented in 1984. Yet most of the smart guns that have been designed and tested have never been produced commercially. A German smart gun exists that is sold in Europe. But there aren’t any smart guns on the store racks in the U.S. Why? Because of the gun lobby and specifically the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the millions of dollars it spends on lobbying and direct campaign contributions to lawmakers to dissuade them from any legislation that would regulate guns. The NRA spent $30 million to elect Trump and a report by CNN showed that all but six Republican members of Congress received money from the NRA. Eight of them got over a million dollars.

Gun on the ground

(Image by Jens Lelie)

Why would the NRA not support safer guns? Why would they not want to see firearms that protect children and possibly reduce crime? Per their Web site, here is the official NRA statement: “The NRA doesn’t oppose the development of ‘‘smart’ guns, nor the ability of Americans to voluntarily acquire them. However, NRA opposes any law prohibiting Americans from acquiring or possessing firearms that don’t possess ‘smart’ gun technology.”

That statement is disingenuous because the NRA has fought against every attempt to research, manufacture or sell a smart gun. At one point the gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson announced a initiative to research and develop smart guns. The NRA led a boycott of Smith & Wesson that impacted their business to the point of laying off 125 workers. Not surprisingly, the manufacturer abandoned that effort.   

The State of New Jersey has been in the middle of this battle over smart guns. Back in 2002 the state enacted what was called the Childproof Handgun Law. The law stated that once “personalized handguns are available” anywhere in the U.S., all guns sold in New Jersey must be smart guns. This legislation seemed to confirm the argument of gun advocates that the availability of smart guns would lead to regulation that would restrict other guns. That of course led to a redoubling of the efforts by the NRA and others to keep smart guns off the market.

Newark-based New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) was one of the leaders in researching smart guns. They had developed a gun with an owner recognition system based on biometric sensors embedded in either the handle or trigger. Their scientists developed a viable offering, but no gun makers or sellers would touch it. Eventually funding dried up and NJIT closed down the unit.

Woman with gun

(Image by Sofia Sforza)

This story, however, does not end here. There are any number of entrepreneurs prepared to disrupt the gun manufacturing industry, potential manufacturers who don’t have a legacy business that can be threatened or bullied. One such effort is a Philadelphia-based start-up LodeStar Firearms which plans to introduce next year a semi-automatic handgun with a user recognition lock. LodeStar is hoping to score a contract with a metropolitan police department and surely will be pointing out the statistics of how many cops get shot with their own guns.

And New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the originator of the Childproof Handgun Law, hasn’t given up either. She introduced a revised bill in 2015 that would simply have required gun sellers to offer one smart gun option. At the time New Jersey had a Republican governor Chris Christie who was hoping to be the party’s Presidential candidate in 2016. He vetoed the bill. Christie has since left office and been replaced by a progressive Democrat so another attempt is likely.

In the meantime, our President and Congress assure us that we will maintain the freedom to own a gun that isn’t secured in our home. A gun that one of our children could get his hands on and shoot himself with. A gun that could be stolen and used to rob the local convenience store,


Other Guns in America posts

Who Fired the First Shot?

The Americanization of the Duel

Prominent Americans Shooting Each Other Up

‘Well Regulated’ Militias and the Right to Bear Arms

Where’s the Blaze of Glory

Prohibition and Gun Control

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The Tower, the View, the History

Gustave Eiffel’s 1889 Parisian landmark.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

View from the Eiffel Tower

View from the Eiffel Tower

View from the Eiffel Tower

Trocadero viewed from the Eiffel Tower

View from the Eiffel Tower

The Seine

Paris Exposition poster

Eiffel Tower lift engine

This engine powered the first Eiffel Tower lift

1889 Eiffel Tower visitors

Visitors in 1889 included, clockwise from top left, Prince Taieb Bey of Tunisia, French actress Sarah Bernhardt, President of the French Republic Sadi Carnot, George I, King of Greece and the Prince of Wales.

Gustave Eiffel

Is that Gustave Eiffel himself in his office at the top of the tower?

Eiffel Tower, Shingo Katori

Eiffel Tower, Shingo Katori

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Guns in America: Prohibition and Gun Control

The United States has the most lax gun laws of any developed country in the world. The 2nd Amendment itself is a one of a kind law (‘Well Regulated Militias’ and the Right to Bear Arms). Yet there have been some efforts to control guns and gun violence, dating back over 200 years.

Gun control measures have usually come about after a wave of gun violence that prompted a demand from the public. Throughout the 19th century and early in the 20th, the gun restrictions that existed were either local or statewide. The shock of the Burr-Hamilton duel and the subsequent death of some other national politicians on the dueling grounds led 18 states to ban the practice of dueling (The Americanization of the Duel). While those new laws set the practice in decline it wasn’t until the widespread bloodshed of the Civil War that it disappeared.

In the latter half of the  19th century, gun violence on the Western frontier prompted some of even the most notorious “Wild West” towns like Dodge City and Tombstone to require visitors to check their guns before entering town. Many states also had what were called “may carry” laws that allowed local officials to determine who may carry a firearm. These laws were clearly more restrictive than the open carry laws that are in effect in most U.S. states today.

It was a another wave of gun violence that resulted in the first federal gun control laws. That violence happened in the 1920’s and was a result of the 16th Amendment, or as we know it, Prohibition. Drinking alcohol was illegal, but it was far from stopped. What Prohibition killed were the legal brewers, distillers and distributors, to be replaced by smugglers, moonshiners, bootleggers and ultimately gangs of mobsters who, in keeping America wet, shot up each other and anyone else who was in the way.

That wave of lawlessness coincided with an advance in the deadliness of gun technology. Maybe, like me, you grew up watching “The Untouchables” or more recently saw the “Boardwalk Empire” series. In either case, you’ll be familiar with the “tommy-gun.” Invented in 1918 by a guy named Thompson, hence the name, the tommy-gun was fully-automatic, meaning you pulled the trigger once and produced a deadly barrage of bullets in a matter of seconds. It became the weapon of choice for the mobsters and gangs of the black market alcohol trade. It was the tommy-gun that was used in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a mob assassination of seven rival gang members in Chicago.

Tommy gun

Once again the American public was roused by the gun violence that they read about in the papers and saw on the newsreels. While most folks might not of much cared if one mobster shot another, the violence of the weapons being used was a public safety issue. Newsreels of the time showed pictures of urban areas pock marked by bullet holes and told stories of children caught in the crossfire.


(Image by Mohamed Hassan)

Many states responded by banning automatic (and in some case semi-automatic) weapons. Beginning with West Virginia in 1925, 27 states passed laws banning the tommy guns. The first federal response to Prohibition era violence was a 1927 law banning mail-order pistols. A more comprehensive response was the 1934 National Firearms Act. This legislation was targeted at machine guns and short-barreled shotguns. But being sensitive to gun advocates and the 2nd Amendment, the legislation didn’t outright ban these weapons, instead it imposed a $200 tax on the sale of these guns and required the buyer to register, be fingerprinted and photographed. While the $200 tax might not have been a deal killer for many gangsters, what mobster wants to register?

Mob violence did in fact decline after passage of the National Firearms Act, but one also needs to take into consideration that by that time, Prohibition had been repealed. The 1934 legislation has been amended and added to, but it is still in effect and it has been successful in getting machine guns off the street. Despite the wave of mass killings and gun violence that has beset the U.S., virtually none of it has been committed with fully-automatic weapons. The National Firearms Act, however, did not address the issue of semi-automatic weapons and we have paid the price for that omission. The mass shooter in Las Vegas who killed 58 people last year used a semi-automatic rifle. So did the murderer of 49 people in an Orlando nightclub in 2016. The Parkland, Fla., high school shooter used a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, as did the Sandy Hook Elementary School murderer.

The National Firearms Act also gave rise to a test of the definition of the 2nd Amendment before the Supreme Court. The United States vs. Miller case in 1939 was brought by two defendants with a criminal records who claimed that the requirement to register and pay a tax on a short-barrel shotgun violated their 2nd Amendment rights. The court took a literal definition of the 2nd Amendment and ruled against the defendants because the gun involved is not one that would be used in a “well-regulated militia.” More recent court rulings have adopted broader interpretations of the 2nd Amendment and interpreted it as protecting individual’s right to own guns with no regard for the “well-regulated militia” qualifier.

We now are in the midst of another wave of gun violence in America which has raised the public voice of those seeking more stringent control of firearms. It remains to be seen whether this will result in new and more restrictive gun laws. So far, that has not been the case with a Republican controlled legislature. We are, however, only weeks away from a mid-term election that could change control of Congress as well as a number of state houses.

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Atelier des Lumieres — Digital Klimt

Atelier des LumieresAtelier des Lumieres is a digital art museum in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. It is housed in an old iron foundry that dates back to 1935. The museum opened in April of this year. The initial exhibition features the works of Gustav Klimt, the Austrian painter whose works are from the late 19th and early 20th century.

The photos here, taken in September, are from the Klimt exhibition. Digital images of his works are projected on the walls, floors and ceilings of the converted foundry. They are set in motion and accompanied by a classical music score.

Digital art ;museum

Klint digital

Atelier des Lumieres


Gustav Klint digital art

Atelier des Lumieres


Atelier des Lumieres

Klint at Atelier des Lumieres

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Guns in America: Where’s the Blaze of Glory?

Few things have had a greater impact on popular culture in America than images of the Wild West. The cowboy, the gunslinger, the frontier lawman, all with six guns hanging from their hips, were the heroes of dime store novels, of the early radio dramas, decades of movies and for many, many years on TV. Wild West shows were among the most popular forms of entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We even created children’s theme parks based on our romantic image of the Wild West, most replete with reenactments of the main street gunfight. Most of this stuff was only a touch more realistic than Spongebob Squarepants.

Denver Art Museum

In the classic Western, the good guy and the bad guy face off man-to-man on Main Street. The bad guy reaches for his gun but our cowboy hero is lightning fast and pulls his six-shooter out of its holster and deposits a bullet into his opposite’s forehead. Historians of the Western frontier, however, can only identify a couple times when this really happened. One of those involved one of our famous TV cowboys, Wild Bill Hickok. He shot a former Confederate soldier named Davis Tutt in a duel after Tutt confiscated Hickok’s watch to pay off a gambling debt. Eleven years later Hickok died after being shot in the back of the head while playing poker. That incident was much more representative of gun violence on the Western frontier than the romanticized notion of the gunfight as a pre-planned duel.

The word gunslinger itself was never used in the old West, but rather was an invention of printed and filmed fiction. The first recorded use of the term was in a movie called ‘Drag Harlan’ that was released in 1920. It came into popular use later in the decade with Zane Grey’s Western novels.


There is in fact some question as to how wild the Wild West really was. According to the Criminal Justice Research Center of Ohio State University, in Dodge City Kansas, a popular gunslinger hangout in literature, TV and film, 0.165 percent of the population was murdered each year from 1876 to 1885.  Other sources site the highest number of murders on record in one town as five in one year (Tombstone 1891). Those numbers probably compare pretty favorably with many current day American cities.

You may be surprised to find out that gun control was an issue in the West in the 19th century. In fact there were stricter gun control laws 150 years ago than there are today, at least in Republican controlled states. Old west cities such as Tombstone, Deadwood, Dodge City and Abilene all had laws requiring folks to disarm upon entering town by leaving their guns at designated locations. And those gun control rules seemed to work. Writing in Smithsonian Magazine , UCLA law professor Adam Winkler says, “Most established towns that restricted weapons had few, if any, killings in a given year.”

Wyatt EarpIn the century and a half since this era on the Western frontier, we have portrayed as heroes some pretty dubious men. Wyatt Earp, for example, the subject of a TV series that had a six year run starting in 1955 and a movie in 1994, is portrayed as a lawman fighting crime in Dodge City and Tombstone. The real Wyatt Earp was a somewhat less appealing character. His career included opening a brothel in Wichita, a lifetime of gambling and some gold rush saloons. He raced horses and at one time refereed boxing matches, a pursuit that some say ended when he fixed a high-profile fight.

Doc HolidayEarp is known as one of the good guys in the gunfight at the OK Coral, along with his buddy Doc Holiday. Holiday was a virulent racist. At one time he fired his gun at a group of black boys who he found at a swimming hole that he wanted to use. During his time in Dallas in the 1870’s Holiday was indicted for illegal gambling and arrested for trading gunfire with a saloon keeper.

There is no better example of America’s love affair with guns than the glorification of individuals like this and the misguided romanticization of gun violence on the Western frontier. We created a gunfighting narrative about fair and square, man against man, good vs. evil. None of it reflects the reality of the time.

Today the narrative of gun advocates is about the upstanding citizen ensuring the safety of his home and family by exercising his constitutional right to own a gun. But the reality of gun violence in America is about the ready availability of  guns, putting them in the hands of psychopaths, criminals, extremists and domestic abusers.


Other Guns in America posts

Who Fired the First Shot?

The Americanization of the Duel

Prominent Americans Shooting Each Other Up

‘Well Regulated’ Militias and the Right to Bear Arms

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Along the Way to Ousel Falls

Ousel Falls Trail

The Ousel Falls Trail is a 1.6 mile trail through the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. It ends at the falls. The trail is maintained by a volunteer community group, the Big Sky Community Organization. (And your dog is welcome to hike along with you.)

Ousel Falls Trail

Bridge over the Gallatin River

Gallatin River in Gallatin National Forest

South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River

Gallatin National Forest

Gallatin National Forest

Gallatin River on Ousel Falls Trail

Ousel Falls Trail

Ousel Falls

Ousel Falls

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Looking Down from Big Sky

Big Sky, Mont.

Lone Mountain, elevation 11,166 feet, in Montana’s Big Sky Resort. That is snow on the mountain and this photo was taken in August. Here’s what it looks like from the top.

Big Sky, Mont.

Big Sky, Mont.

Atop Lone Peak

Saloon atop Lone Mountain

This is the last chance saloon.

Cedar Mountain

Next door is Cedar Mountain;, elev. 10,788 ft.

View from Lone Peak

Lone Mountain

Big Sky

Lift to Lone Peak

Lone Mountain

Big Sky ski lift

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‘For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People’

Entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Entrance to Yellowstone National Park

Roosevelt Arch

“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” With those words President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the arch at the Gardner, Mont., entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Roosevelt was a Republican who supported the national parks. Had a current-day GOPer crafted an inscription it might well read “for the benefit and profit of the fossil fuel industry.”

The Roosevelt Arch stands at the first entrance to the world’s first national park. So, I took TR’s advice, walked through the arch and enjoyed the beauty of the park.

Roosevelt Arch

Doorway to Yellowstone National Park

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone



Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The Lower Falls

Mammoth Hot Springs

Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone river

Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone National Park

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