The plans of a University of Texas law student and amateur desktop gunsmith were put on hold last week when the company that had leased the sophisticated 3-D printer sent a team to his house and reclaimed it.
“I didn’t even have it out of the box," said Cody Wilson, director of Defense Distributed, the online collective that was overseeing the controversial Wiki Weapon Project.
Wilson and Defense Distributed had hoped to design, test and make publicly available the blueprints for a 3-D printed weapon, according to Wired.
They also hope to revolutionize the question of gun control in America. "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," the group writes on its website.
Speaking to Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg, Wilson emphasized the importance of the project's main principle.
“You don’t need to be able to put 200 rounds through it," Wilson said. "It only has to fire once. But even if the design is a little unworkable, it doesn’t matter, as long as it has that guarantee of lethality.”
This "guarantee of lethality" may have to be momentarily put on hold, however, after desktop-manufacturing company Stratasys notified the collective that their business was no longer welcome.
In an email posted to the Defense Distributed website, the Stratasys' legal team cited concerns over the legality of the endeavor. "It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes," the letter stated.
While Wilson has maintained he's not breaking any laws, he doesn't have a firearms manufacturers license, and according to CNET, would-be home gunsmiths may still be subject to complicated and fairly stringent legal obligations. As the article points out, the limitations of 3-D printing means any successful design would be for a Title-II class weapon, making it subject to stricter firearms regulations and may even need special permission from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms an Explosives (ATF).
Defense Distributed was planning to build upon the success of Michael Guslick's .22 caliber pistol and AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, both made in part from 3-D printed plastic. While Guslick's weapons incorporated both plastic and metal off the shelf parts, any gun completely metal-free (and therefore undetectable in an airport's metal detector) would be illegal under the Undetectable Firearms Act.
Wilson seems undaunted by both the legal issues and the new printer problem. This is certainly not the first setback for the Wiki Weapons Project team.
In order to raise the $20,000 originally needed for the printer, the group had first attempted to crowdsource funding through Indiegogo. That fundraising endeavor failed, however, after the site kicked Wiki Weapons off its site and refunded all contributions it received, according to BetaBeat. Wilson said the group then moved its money soliciting efforts to its own website where an anonymous donor agreed to match the last $10,000.
Speaking with Wired, the 24-year-old student said he had already consulted with a lawyer. He's also thinking about forming a legitimate company and shopping around for a new printer.
“We want everyone else to not have to do these things, so fine, we’ll do them, we’ll fool around with it, we’ll pay the thousands of dollars per year,” Wilson says. “It’s just disgusting. I hate that that’s the way it is, but that’s apparently the regulatory landscape.”