3d guns

On 4th May, the world witnessed a successful test of a gun made at home on a 3D printer. Defense Distributed, the controversial group which developed the gun, announced their intention to publish the blueprints online, worrying anti-gun campaigners while attracting the attention of the intelligence services. Just two days after the publication of the blueprints, 100,000 copies have been downloaded. Are we now entering a world where guns are now easily manufactured? Could this be the dawn of Wiki Weapons?

If you were to go to Defense Distributed’s website, you could download the blueprints for the gun, known as the “Liberator”. However, the files are hosted on, and downloaded through, Kim Dotcom’s Mega storage site. Kim Dotcom encrypts all users’ information and has resisted government surveillance in the past. As with all things in the age of technology, however, the blueprints have been copied, re-uploaded and are now appearing on filesharing websites such as the Pirate Bay. It is currently the most popular file in the 3D printing category.

Defense Distributed has previously manufactured a magazine for an AK-47 and the body of an AR-15. The founder of the group, Cody Wilson, described himself as a “crypto-anarchist” to the BBC. Mr. Wilson’s choice of name (the “Liberator”) and bizarre vision of the future “[I see] a world where contraband will pass underground through the data cables to be printed in our homes as the drones move overhead…” (Quoted by Forbes) also reflects American fears of big government, something which may have motivated Mr. Wilson to start the development and distribution of weapons.

If this assumption is true, Mr. Wilson is not alone in his fear of big government. Most downloads have come from the United States, where President Obama has recently tried to tighten gun control. One could interpret the mass downloading of the file as a response to attempts to clamp down on gun ownership – something many in the pro-gun camp see as big government infringing on the rights of ordinary people. In fact, Defense Distributed named the Liberator’s ammo magazines after anti-gun legislators and Mr. Wilson has said that this project aims to try and make gun control redundant.

Not all who have downloaded the blueprints will be able to create a gun. This is because at present 3D printers are not capable of the necessary degree of craftsmanship to produce the parts of a gun. A time may come, however, when it will be commonplace to print goods rather than order them. That will mean 3D printing technology will be far more developed, and therefore capable of more intricate tasks while being increasingly user-friendly and cost-effective.

There have already been calls in the US to ban the blueprints. Leland Yee, a Democratic Senator from California, said that he was keen to make sure 3D printing “was not used for the wrong purpose”. A spokesperson said a bill was being prepared to ban guns. Two other Democratic Congressmen from New York have made similar complaints about the Liberator. One, Chuck Schumer, has claimed the guns violate the Undetectable Firearms Act (1988), because they can pass through metal detectors undetected.

In the UK, the Metropolitan police issued a statement: “To actually manufacture any type of firearm in the UK, you have to be a registered firearms dealer (RFD),”

“Therefore, unless you are an RFD, it would most definitely be an offence to make a gun using the blueprints. It may be legal for an RFD to manufacture a gun this way, as long as they had the necessary authorities.”