3D Printers are going to change the world. With a 3D Printer, a blueprint, and some plastic, you can make any object you want with the click of a button, right from your couch. Since 2010, these machines have been commercially available and used for all kinds of helpful purposes.
But one man is using 3D printers to make guns. Cody R. Wilson, a 25 year-old University of Texas law student and avid gun enthusiast, is using 3D printers to design and print fully functioning rifle parts. In doing so, he has turned the issue of gun control inside out.
He’s founded Defense Distributed, an online, open-source organization that designs “wiki weapons.” The organization’s primary goal is “to develop and freely publish firearms-related design schematics that can be downloaded and reproduced by anyone with a 3D printer.”
Wilson runs Defense Distributed from his Austin apartment, where he and “a handful of guys really talented at SolidWorks” (the same computer-aided design engineering software many of MLEC’s engineers are professionally certified in) produce and test homemade assault rifles. Videos of him firing massive plastic guns with hundred round clips have made him infamous.
Within ten years, every household could have a 3D printer, so what’s to stop any criminal from downloading files for guns and printing them in his living room? Restricting gun purchasing will be futile if users don’t need to actually buy the guns to get them.
Why ban fully automatics? Why mandate background checks? Why ban clips that hold over 10 bullets? Why go to the trouble when the most determined of murderers will build their arsenals under the government’s nose?
Cody Wilson is a crypto-anarchist and says this is exactly the point he is trying to make. He wants everybody to have access to guns and has spread his gun files on the web, which have already amassed hundreds of thousands of downloads.
Ladd Everitt, director of communications for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said, “The gun laws are so weak in this country, it’s hard to imagine that there is any reason for someone to go out and buy a 3-D printer, download these blueprints, and test-print a gun, when even people who are clearly dangerous can get guns, if not through licensed sales, then through private ones.”
Wilson has stirred up controversy and criticism for what he is doing, but this technology’s potential for harm is inevitable. He argues he is doing a favor by bringing this question into the national spotlight early. Currently, there are no laws prohibiting the digital manufacturing of weapons, so what he is doing is not illegal. But would outlawing it prove effective?
Such a publicly accessible technology seems nearly impossible to regulate without Orwellian levels of “big brother” spying, and America will never stand for cameras in every room in the nation.
It will be a hard problem to solve, but it touches light on the greatest challenge that humanity faces. As we become exponentially more technologically capable, we will get to the point where law and freedom cannot coexist effectively. Unless we want to live in a dystopian nanny state, we must eliminate the will to do evil from our race, and become an inherently peaceful Earth. If not, all it will take is a bad man with a button, and we will soon cease to exist.