3D printers are just like the paper printers you know, except they use plastic, and other materials, to create actual objects. They allow consumers to create the stuff they want right in the comfort of their own homes, potentially upending much of the industrial world.
It used to be that these printers were limited to making trinkets and baubles. But one Texas-based designer, Cody Wilson, has taken the next leap with the world’s first 3D-printed firearm.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 7, 2015
Now he’s suing the U.S. government to make sure they don’t stop him from realizing his dream.
His gun, The Liberator, can be made on consumer-grade 3D printers, from 12 different pieces of plastic and one metal firing pin. This is no trinket. It really works.
— Indy Patriot (@indyp8riot) May 7, 2015
After coming up with the design, Wilson founded a nonprofit called Defense Distributed. He posted the gun’s blueprints online, which were downloaded more than 100,000 times in just 2 days.
— Luxury Art (@LuxuryArt2) September 12, 2014
That’s when the State Department came calling. It claimed that Wilson violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and now he’s facing 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine per violation.
He was ordered to take down the blueprints and to relinquish ownership of his intellectual property rights on the gun. These were steep penalties that Wilson was just not willing to accept.
— 3DPYellow (@3DPYellow) January 24, 2014
“The technology will break gun control,” he said. “I stand for freedom.”
Wilson’s lawsuit is a bold salvo in a battle to withhold his Second Amendment rights. After all, there are no laws against creating something.
Josh Blackman, one of Wilson’s attorneys, explained why legal action was necessary:
“The government should tread carefully in restricting this technology to protect intellectual property,” he said. “Let technology and our constitutional rights be free.”
Many politicians don’t see it that way. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned of dire consequences at a 2013 press conference:
“We’re facing a situation where anyone, a felon, a terrorist, can open a gun factory in their garage and the weapons they make will be undetectable,” he said. “It’s stomach-churning,”
Of course, this fear-stoking shows a lack of understanding on how these printers work. You don’t just push the “gun” button on the way out of the door for a hunting trip. A device as complicated as “The Liberator” takes time and a certain amount of technical know-how, as Blackman elaborated:
“Contrary to Schumer’s suggestion, a working gun does not pop out of the 3-D printer ready to fire, like a pop-tart from the toaster,” he said. “Using a 3D printer to create the parts, and assemble them, is a time-intensive process that requires advanced knowledge of machining and gunsmithing.”
The State Department has not responded to this lawsuit, as it’s procedure to not comment about ongoing litigation.