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Click, Print, Fire: 3D Weapons and the Arms Trade Treaty

CollectionsANU Student Research Conference (2nd : 2016 : Canberra, ACT)
Title: Click, Print, Fire: 3D Weapons and the Arms Trade Treaty
Author(s): Catalán Flores, Alex
Keywords: student research conference;arms trade treaty;international law;digital technologies
Date published: 14-Jul-2016
Publisher: Australian National University
On 3 June 2013, countries united to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in an effort to combat illegal arms transfers and also regulate legal arms transfers between countries. The ATT provides an unprecedented regulatory framework which encompasses previously unregulated military materiel such as combat aircraft and battle tanks. However on 3 May 2013, exactly one month earlier, a new threat emerged when shots were fired from the world’s first entirely 3D-printed plastic polymer firearm – The Liberator. On 12 May, two Daily Mail journalists printed a copy of The Liberator and smuggled it past airport-style security. Despite this threat, 3D firearms are not mentioned in either the treaty negotiations or the final treaty text. This paper analyses whether the legal architecture provided by the ATT can address the three main challenges posed by 3D printing: firearms, components, and digital design files. This paper reviews the ATT through the lens of international disarmament law and international institutional law, analysing commentary from superior international courts and eminent legal scholars. Ultimately this paper posits that while the ATT adequately addresses 3D-printed firearms, it creates a legal void in the space of 3D-printed components and digital design files, meaning that weapons can still be transferred by sending them component by component or by sharing the original design file online. A solution is possible within the current parameters of international law, but this will depend on states’ willingness to give proactive legal powers to the ATT’s primary institutional organ – the Conference of States Parties.


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Click, Print, Fire.pdfAlex Catalan Flores1.13 MBAdobe PDFThumbnail

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