3D Printed Guns Cause Heated Controversy
(CNN) — A Texas group run by a self-described anarchist has posted what appears to be the first video of the live firing of a handgun created with a 3-D printer.
The 53-second video shows a single shot being fired from The Liberator, a plastic handgun that, with the exception of its metal firing pin, was assembled from parts made with a 3-D printer, according to Defense Distributed. The gun appears unscathed after the test firing, although the brief clip does not reveal anything about its range or accuracy.
The nonprofit group, founded by 25-year-old law student Cody Wilson, has posted instructions for the gun online so other people can duplicate it. The gun was created with a Stratasys Dimension SST printer, which can be purchased online for as little as $8,000.
Wilson fired the gun last Saturday and the video was posted to YouTube the next day. The group’s self-described “Wiki Weapon Project” is about a year old. Until now, the group had only reported being able to make plastic, interchangeable parts for firearms, but not entire weapons.
The Liberator is comprised of 16 interchangeable pieces, with a nail for a firing pin. According to the group, the barrel can be changed out to fire different kinds of ammo.
Not surprisingly, reports of the test-firing have reignited calls to ban 3-D-printed guns, which critics fear could easily fall into the wrong hands and create safety concerns because they’d be invisible to metal detectors.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer is one of several politicians pushing for stricter legislation that would ban firearms created with 3-D printers.
“Passing this law would not only prevent people from making these parts, it would raise awareness on the issue,” Schumer said Sunday during a news conference. “We’re facing a situation where anyone — a felon, a terrorist — can open a gun factory in their garage.”
Schumer is joined by U.S. congressman Steve Israel of New York, who has introduced legislation to renew a ban on plastic guns that is set to expire later this year.
“I don’t want to make it easier for criminals and terrorists to bring plastic guns through metal detectors and onto airplanes,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday.
It’s an argument unlikely to sway Wilson, who has made no secret of his disdain for the U.S. government in particular and all governments in general. (Defense Distributed makes and sells components with names like “The Cuomo” and “The Pelosi,” to tweak politicians who support gun control).
“For me, it’s important as a symbolic political statement,” he told CNN Monday. “And that statement is something like, “No, the future we imagine is one of personalized manufacture and access to objects. It doesn’t matter what the decision is on the Hill … in this future, people will be able to make guns for themselves.”
“That was already true, but now it’s been demonstrated in yet another technology.”
Despite that worldview, Defense Distributed applied for, and in March received, a federal firearm license which makes it a legal gun manufacturer.
Wilson acknowledged in a recent interview with Forbes that his creation could be used by criminals, but suggested that demonstrating the freedom to create them is more important than trying to stop that from happening.
“I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people. That’s what it is: It’s a gun,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s a reason to not put it out there. I think that liberty in the end is a better interest.”
Defense Distributed is based near Austin, Texas. Wilson has emerged as the face of the group, although many of its members, including the owners of the 3-D printer the group uses, have chosen to remain anonymous.
The group’s future plans include expanding the range of ammunition a 3-D printed gun can fire and making the guns printable with less expensive printers, such as the $2,800 Replicator 2 by Makerbot.