By Joshua Ostrer
Blueprints for the world’s first printed gun spur controversy and federal attention
A gun you can make with a printer, an idea that once seemed ludicrous, is now a reality.
Using a three-dimensional printer, Defense Distributed was able to print the world’s first gun made using only a printer.
Defense Distributed, a company founded in July 2012, is making headlines for its new invention.
But who are they? According to their website, defdist.org, “Defense Distributed is a pending 501(c)(3) status nonprofit corporation in the state of Texas, organized and operated exclusively for charitable and literary purposes.”
As far as a specific purpose, Defense distributed claims that their goal is “to defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme court, through facilitating global access to, and the collaborative production of, information and knowledge related to the 3-D printing of arms: and to publish and distribute, at no cost to the public, such information and knowledge in promotion of the public interest.”
This is not Defense Distributed’s first product, however. The company has already made magazines for the AR-15 and AK-47 using 3-D printing, however, this newest development is the company’s most substantial thus far.
The gun, called “The Liberator,” is a .380 caliber single shot pistol. Pursuant to Defense Distributed’s self-proclaimed purpose, blueprints for the gun were made free to download online on the company’s publishing site: DEFCAD.
The gun was created by a 3-D printer, a printer that takes a three-dimensional image and then re-creates the image by adding layer after layer of plastic, until the model is fully recreated.
While the gun was created by a higher-end model costing $8,000 rather than the more commonly owned 3-D printers costing anywhere upwards of $200, a controversy has begun nonetheless.
It was only four days after the blueprint’s release that the United States Department of State ordered that Defense Distributed remove the blueprints from their site in pursuance to possible violations of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
DEFCAD’s site now displays the following message on its homepage: “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”
The information is being removed from public access due to ITAR.
The United States government claims that the blueprint can be harmful if in the hands of non-citizens, and as a result must be restricted from public access completely.
However, Defense Distributed insists it is in the right, in accordance with ITAR.
The company alleges that its entire setup was designed to not be in violation of ITAR, insisting that “Our gun operations were registered with ITAR … [United States government] are stalling, they are going to make this review last as long as they can … They are getting a lot of political pressure” to BBC news this past week.
So, with Defense Distributed dealing with a federal review, what is happening with the blueprints? A lot.
Other online sharing sites have opened their doors to the forbidden-blueprints to an avalanche of downloads.
Many file-sharing sites have made the blueprints available; most notably “The Pirate Bay” which says it not only welcomes the blueprints, but has no intention of taking the files down.
The blueprint was downloaded over 100,000 times before being taken down from DEFCAD’s site, and has most likely been far more downloaded since it’s re-distribution through The Pirate Bay, as well as other sites.
Some believe that the U.S. government’s removal of the blueprint is what has sparked such an increase in downloads.
On Reddit, the self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet,” one user, grinr, commented “‘Just delete it off the Internet’ said everyone who has not one clue how the Internet works.”
And while the United States government oversees the view of the blueprint and its legality, there is undoubtedly going to be legislative action on the subject of 3-D printing, if not on the subject of printed weapons specifically.
However, Cody R. Wilson believes he and his company are in the right.
“There are states all over the world outside of the United States that say we are a gun control state; you can’t own a firearm, that’s not true anymore. I’m seeing a world where technology basically says you can have whatever you want” said Defense Distributed’s Wilson to BBC News.
Wilson went on to tell BBC about why he and his company will continue to pursue 3-D printing firearms, “I recognize that the tool could be used to hurt other people, that’s what it is, it’s a gun, but I don’t think that’s a reason to not do it, or a reason to not put it out there, I think liberty in the end is a better interest.”
While this is the first major controversey, 3-D printing is expected to have many hurdles ahead of it.
Governments fear the printer’s ability to make weapons, and companies are becoming increasingly worried that 3-D printers will be able to re-create products like smartphones, mp3 players, computers and more.
Three-dimentional printing has already revolutionized the way manufacturing companies test prototypes, and the printers are only becoming cheaper and more efficient as time goes on.
This is the beginning of a new kind of cyber war; as three dimensional printers become more efficient and more present in households, governments and companies will seek to censor what is and what isn’t allowed. The advent of the 3-D printable gun has started that war off with a bang.