When I saw a 3D printer in action for the first time, I remember smiling as I thought, we are now one step closer to a post-scarcity society. But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m the weird one. Maybe like Cody Wilson your first thought was, you know, I can make guns, lots of guns with this…
In 2012, Wilson started a company called Defense Distributed. The company’s mission is to distribute digital firearm schematics useable by anyone with a 3D printer, allowing them to easily make their own guns at home. Since they’re untraceable, unregistered, and completely DIY, law enforcement and the media refer to these sort of homemade firearms with a cyberpunk-sounding moniker—“ghost guns.” The lower receiver produced by this process still needs milling so it’s not technically considered a “firearm” and federal law only requires a serial number on a firearm if it is to be transferred (sold).
Roughly a year later, Wilson’s company turned out their first fully functional 3D-printed firearm. Named for the weapon given to French resistance, “The Liberator” is a single-shot .380 plastic pistol. Naturally, this drew the attention of The Department of Justice. The DOJ acted quickly by using a gun export law to order the digital files removed from the internet.
The company, of course, complied…but complied only technically. They removed the blueprints as a download, but continued distributing to customers via a pre-loaded USB stick sent through the mail. Wilson, of course, responded by suing the government, framing the entire thing as a free speech issue.
The protracted legal battle was finally settled late last month when the DOJ caved on all grounds—even agreeing to pay $40Kin legal fees. So starting August 1st, Defense Distributed will once again be offering digital firearms schematics for 3D printers through their DEFCAD site.
But wait, there’s more.
Don’t think Wilson and company have been twiddling their thumbs all these years. Defense Distributed has stayed busy focusing on improving digital technology as it relates to weapons. They’ve released two versions of something they call “The Ghost Gunner” — essentially a specialized CNC (computerized numeric control) tool that’s been preloaded with weapon schematics and is now capable of carving a handgun frame from a chunk of aluminum. Wilson has been regularly listed as one of the most dangerous people on the internet and it’s no wonder. He took time out off from his untraceable-weapons-for-everyone venture to found Hatreon—the crowdfunding site without any hate speech restrictions.
Because like any good capitalist, anarchist or otherwise, Wilson is all too willing to put profits over both morals and people.