The Internet has revolutionized the human experience. Everything from our privacy to the way we do business has changed as a result of computers. The sharing of ideas on the information super highway has proven unstoppable and to this point, mostly beneficial, but what happens when it creates a clear public health risk both nationally and internationally?
With the invention of 3D printers comes the Wiki Weapons Project: people harnessing the information sharing capabilities of the internet to spread schematics and custom designs for gun parts in what are known as CAD files that can be downloaded and printed with a 3D printer -- in other words, people using the Web to create untraceable firearms from home.
Leading the way is Cody R. Wilson, a 25-year-old self-proclaimed crypto-anarchist and subject of the recent documentary by Motherboard called Click. Print. Gun. Wilson runs a gun manufacturing company out of Austin, Texas called Defense Distributed which uses a 3D printer to create high capacity magazines and lower receivers for guns. As he explains, the ATF currently only regulates the lower receiver, but the rest of the gun is not serialized and can by bought online by "any 12-year-old." "It's a thing of beauty" he says with sociopathic disregard. Wilson also runs a website called DefCad.org, the sole purpose of which is to host weapons files for anyone to download free of charge. "People all over the world are downloading our files ... We say good, you should have access to this; you simply should."
But Wilson is no idealist. His true intentions, which he makes clear in the documentary, are much darker and reek of narcissism. His mission is to "prove a point" to "the state," and anyone else who might disagree with him, that gun control is a joke. It is obvious when he speaks that he has nothing but disdain for those people who include Vice President Biden, Senator Feinstein, President Obama, and progressives. His designs even bear names like "The Feinstein." Before one of his YouTube demonstrations he mockingly asks the question, "How's that national conversation coming?"
And he has a point. Lawmakers are nowhere near tackling this issue. Washington has been abuzz with debates over gun control and what is an appropriate response to the string of mass shootings in 2012, which include Sandy Hook, but missing from these talks is any kind of proposal to deal with online distribution of weapons designs for 3D printing. Wilson says, "Gun control for us is a fantasy... I think it's... unrealistic to think that you could ever control this technology."
Wilson's company has managed to print a lower receiver that successfully fired 600 rounds without breaking. Eventually he might be able to create untraceable, plastic guns, the designs for which he will distribute on his website for free. And while the printers themselves are currently for the most part prohibitively expensive, in 5-10 years, they will likely be much more commonplace in the homes of Americans. The Wiki Weapons Project could effectively put an untraceable gun in the home of everyone who possesses the technology.
UPDATE: Defense Distributed has announced that it has fired shots from the first entirely 3D printed gun signifying a new era for the gun control debate. The handgun, named "The Liberator", is made almost entirely from plastic, though its firing pin is made of metal. It has an interchangeable barrel to accommodate different caliber rounds. Cody Wilson, its inventor, told Forbes with characteristic disregard for human life "I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people ... But I don't think that's a reason to not put it out there." He has released the design online to ensure that anyone who wants a gun can get one, including children, psychotics, convicted felons, and terrorists; anyone with a 3D printer.