Several years ago we wrote about Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed about 3D printed guns and he’s back in the news this week in a big way. Through a settlement with the state department over a several year legal battle, the files for a 3D printed gun will be legally available for download beginning tomorrow (August 1st). The plans were originally held-up under a trade restriction given the fact that “weapon technology” could be downloaded overseas. You can learn more about Cody Wilson here and 3D printed guns in general here.
For Wilson this has been a free speech issue with plans contained in a 3D file just being protected speech. It has long been perfectly legal for people to manufacture guns for their own use, so the argument against here is the relative ease 3D printing provides for this process. Other current laws prohibit guns intentionally designed to evade metal detectors and x-ray detection requiring at least 3.7 ounces of metal. Of course the opposite side is untraceable plastic guns available to anyone, anytime and anywhere and the fact that most of the metal can easily be left out of the gun in question by the builder as it’s not functional, it just for legal compliance.
With all the other political news this hasn’t been getting much discussion, but at the 11th hour many states and members of Congress are sounding alarm bells. Even Alyssa Milano is chiming in calling it “Downloadable Death”. President Trump weighed in with a tweet this morning showing there may still be a last minute federal reversal if a court injunction or congress doesn’t act first.
I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
This may largely be a debate about what could be than what is. Currently you buy a $1,000 3D printer, wait many hours and get a somewhat flimsy unreliable single shot untraceable gun where your Google search for the files could probably be traced back to you. A serious criminal would probably save money and time buying a superior untraceable gun in a back alley somewhere on the black market. However in a few years as metal 3D printing gets cheaper, faster and more widespread, it could be a different story.
At time of writing there are still 11 hours to go and not doubt there may be some last minute news as 21 states are suing to prevent this. There is some wonder if the NRA even supports this from a business sense (why buy guns from gun manufacturers when you can make your own). Today could be an interesting day in the history of 3D printing.