Ask the Ethics Bowl Team

SCU’s Ethics Bowl team earned a spot at nationals this year. So we ask them to tackle one real problem: 3-D printing and guns.

Manufacturing guns in a 3-D printer isn’t just a possibility. It’s happening. What do we do about it? We asked Jonathan Jaworski ’17 and the SCU Ethics Bowl team for their take. This year the team went to nationals and took fourth—the first time a team from SCU has made it to the semifinals. Jonathan, take it away:

“With 3-D printing, guns can suddenly be manufactured independently, easily, and cheaply. How do we balance technological progress and our need for safety and security? We can’t stop 3-D printers from existing. Do we limit what we can 3-D print? We thought it was a violation of autonomy to make it illegal to print 3-D guns. The nature of 3-D printing makes it impossible for limitations to be put on the printers themselves. We proposed these guns could only be legally printed at certified centers that would test the gun for safety, place a metal rod in it to set off metal detectors, and add an ID number. We argued this using the framework of utilitarianism; this maximized societal welfare by putting effective safety measures in place, while not overly restricting technological advancements and autonomy.”

The legality of producing 3-D printed firearms was a favorite topic for the Ethics Bowl team. SCU didn’t get assigned the topic at regionals, but they did get to offer a rebuttal. Their opponent argued that restricting printing was too great of a limitation on personal liberty. Jaworski countered they hadn’t adequately balanced autonomy and safety concerns. Broncos win.

Ethics Bowl is not only about getting the right answer. It’s the process. “How can we approach these problems in a way that’s rational?” Jaworski says. “Santa Clara should be forming students who can hold rational beliefs and justify them and engage in debate with people who disagree with them. That’s the key to democracy.”

“It’s easy to be afraid to be wrong and if you realize that you are, just not back down,” teammate Leilan Nishi ’18 adds. “Bringing together a bunch of people with different points and having to defend your own view against them, sometimes you come up short and realize, ‘Hey, maybe I have to rethink this.’”

Other team members competing at nationals were Alex Arnold ’17, Derek Sikkema ’19, and Evan Meyer ’17.

post-image The legality of producing firearms by way of 3-D printers was a favorite topic for the SCU Ethics Bowl team, who went to nationals this year. Photo by Getty Images
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