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First 3D Printed Gun Is Fired; Creator Offers Little Concrete Explanation

Submitted by on May 6, 2013 – 5:49 pmNo Comment

Defense Distributed, an open-source project run by a 25-year-old Texas law student, has successfully tested the first firearm produced almost entirely with 3D printing. The weapon, and the company’s plans to make the blueprints available freely online, raise troubling questions with what appears to be little more than a reckless social and technological experiment.

DefDist was formed less than a year ago by Cody Wilson for the purpose of developing “a fully printable firearm,” and distributing the plans freely on the web, before refining the plans for cheaper 3D printing. The first step seems to be complete, as the company this week unveiled The Liberator. The handgun was produced completely by plastic 3D printing, except for the firing pin (which appears to be a common household nail).

Though Wilson’s anti-government leanings are clear in his interviews and on DefDist’s website, he personally did obtain a manufacturer and sellers license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. But his company is a non-profit, not a manufacturer; presumably, they use the defense that they are not selling guns, but merely making some for personal use and distributing blueprints for free. And a representative for the ATF explains to the BBC that the manufacture would be legal anyway, as long as the firearm itself is not banned under other legislation.

This line between manufacturing and distributing plans is just one area where 3D printing has pushed technology way ahead of our grasp of the implications. At this point, 3D printing is still too prohibitively expensive for printable firearms to be a huge concern, but it probably won’t remain that way for long, and the cat is clearly out of the bag.

Unfortunately, Wilson and DefDist exude an apathetic, intellectualized attitude towards the human consequences of their actions, like a teenager who has just read Ayn Rand for the first time. A true idealist, Wilson can’t be bothered to think about what will happen when his technology falls into the wrong hands, telling the BBC glibly that, “I don’t think that’s a reason to not do it – or a reason not to put it out there,” offering the ever-present and ever-vague “liberty” as a justification.

DefDist’s website posts a similarly chilling and casual explanation of their aims:

This project might change the way we think about gun control and consumption. How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the Internet? Let’s find out.

“Let’s find out??!!” Really? No guesses? Wilson is treating lethal firearms manufacture and distribution like his own personal though experiment. Except thought experiments usually take place, you know, in thoughts.

What about other questions, like: how will civilians behave under the assumption (or reality) that everyone has a firearm? Why don’t we ask Yemen or Somalia? Again, DefDist seems unable to confront their actions, unless they couch themselves in grand, generalized political philosophy babble.

Finally, there’s the video the company released promoting “The Liberator,” their gun: Wilson may sound like an anarchist or libertarian, but these 53 seconds would make any testosterone-fueled Socialist Realist stand up and cheer.

What do you think of The Liberator and printable guns?

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