3D-Printed Gun Movement

Being a 3D-printing novice, I was once somewhat skeptical of the promise  behind what’s being billed as a truly game-changing technology. I saw Makerbot  CEO Bre Pettis on  the cover of Wired in late September, and while the novelty of the  process incited wonder in my inner 10-year-old, I didn’t think much about it  after the fact.

Enter Cody R. Wilson. Wilson is a 25-year-old University of Texas law  student working to build semiautomatic weapons using 3D printers. His name first  came up in conversation with a colleague after Wilson posted an Indiegogo pitch video demonstrating  his intended use for a newly-acquired Stratasys 3D printer, which Stratasys subsequently  repossessed.

I was intrigued. Wilson seemed to be an articulate and tech-savvy mouthpiece  for a movement that a large portion of the country would deem dangerous and  off-limits. To find out more about his fight against gun control, we flew down  to his home base of Austin, Texas, where we first met Wilson at his apartment. I  wasn’t sure what to make of him. He checked his phone every 10 seconds. He had a  hard time making eye contact. Every other sentence ended with “Do you know what  I mean?” He spoke on topics ranging from progress in the 3D-printed gun movement  to American politics to the inherent revolutionary nature of bitcoins.

Soon enough Wilson showed us the CAD file on his computer for his lower  receiver. Over us, a five-foot American flag hung as a self-described ironic  statement. He’s a knowledgeable guy, and spoke at length about the development  of Defense Distributed’s lower receiver, telling me that failure was a part of  the scientific process. As he said, every time one of his designs fails, it  offers more insight into what designs work.

Social niceties aside, we were there to watch Wilson build some guns. To be  clear, Defense Distributed doesn’t print entire guns–at least not yet. Instead,  Wilson’s team focuses on printing AR-15 lower receivers, which house most of the  operating parts of that firearm.

It is also the part of the gun that’s considered a gun by the government.  Other parts like barrels and stocks, especially those for the highly-modular  AR-15 platform, can be purchased online, and often with no age restriction or  background check needed.

Wilson is also focused on 3D printing 30-round magazine clips in  anticipation of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapon ban bill, which would  limit magazine size. To Wilson, the work is partly an effort to expose what he  considers the futility of gun regulation. “[Magazines] prove the point much  better than the lower receiver that you can’t ban a box and a spring,” he  said.

Printing a lower receiver takes seven hours, but there is something  particularly ominous about seeing the ARS plastic begin to take shape as the  lower receiver is born.

Whatever your thoughts on gun control, it’s impossible to deny that the  3D-printed gun movement is something that doesn’t fit into the current legal  framework. It’s either exciting or scary–or perhaps both–and that polarity is  something Wilson recognizes, and which he knows how to bend to his advantage. It  all made for a rather confusing week in Texas, during which we were often alone  with just Wilson, who appears to have few distractions outside of his work with  Defense Distributed. He’s created his own world in this mission, where friends  or law school grades take a backseat to the message.

It’s impossible to know where that mission will end, but just as it’s clear  that 3D printing is set to boom, it’s clear that Wilson and company have changed  the boundaries of what that boom will bring. source: motherboard

For more on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm’s stance on  3D-printed guns, check out this  piece by Motherboard’s Adam Clark Estes. 





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