Plans to create the world’s first open-source fully operational firearm – created on a 3D printer – have hit a slight snag with the news that the manufacturer that created the printer being used in the design process has seized the machine being used by the people behind the project, claiming that it is not willing to allow its hardware to be used for a project that violates federal firearms laws.
We reported on Defense Distributed’s Wiki Weapon project last week after it reached its $20,000 crowdfunding goal essentially solo, having been pushed out by IndieGoGo for, again, concerns surrounding the legality of actually creating a working gun via 3D printer with an aim of then releasing the plans online for free, so that anyone with access to 3D printing technology could, worryingly easily, create a firearm of their own. The project is the brainchild of one Cody Wilson, a law student from Texas who defended it in the abstract under the constitution’s right to bear arms – “People say you’re going to allow people to hurt people, well, that’s one of the sad realities of liberty. People abuse freedom, but that’s no excuse not to have these rights or to feel good about someone taking them away from you,” he said in response to criticism – but also admitted that there may be valid legal concerns about the project moving forward. “I haven’t felt any real heat yet, but I think it’s very possible the project might happen outside of America or the files might be hosted outside of America,” he’s said when asked about potential legal threats. “The point of manufacture might also have to be outside of the United States.”
Apparently, that point of design may need to be outside of the United States as well, following new developments.
Stratsys, the company that created the uPrint SE 3D printer being used by Defense Distributed in the creation of the prototype, has released a statement about its seizure of the equipment, saying that it acted after discovering that Defense Distributed didn’t have a firearm manufacturer license. “It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes,” the company explained in a letter to Wilson himself. That’s a charge that Wilson denies, saying “Our intentions are not to break the law. This is America; I don’t need to register a thing.”
If that sounds a little over-the-top and defiant to you, Wilson can apparently back it up. He told the Guardian newspaper that he approached the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about Wiki Weapon, and was told that there were no clear guidelines on whether or not a license was necessary. “Basically, the law has not anticipated this,” Wilson explained. “Current laws rely on conventional ideas of what a gun is.”
Wilson isn’t deterred by this latest setback, having applied for a manufacturer’s license, and started work on turning Defense Distributed into a company in the traditional sense. “We’ll get there,” he said of the project’s ultimate aim, “but I guess I’ve got to turn into a capitalist before it’s all said and done.”