The Right To Download Arms: 3-D Printed Firearms Ignite Free Speech Battle

One of “the most dangerous people on the Internet right now” is promoting open-source firearm blueprints, which would effectively expand access to anyone with an Internet connection and a 3-D printer. But it’s a First Amendment, and not a Second Amendment, fight that he’s facing.

Cody Wilson works on the first completely 3D-printed handgun, The Liberator, at his home in Austin on Friday May 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Austin American Statesman, Jay Janner)

AUSTIN, Texas — As legislation struggles to keep pace with technology, the Internet is the modern Wild West. For the past two years, Defense Distributed has been embroiled in a legal showdown at the intersection of the growth of the 3-D printed weapons industry and Internet free speech.

“Let’s be honest, there are so many CAD [computer-aided design] websites online, people have been sharing their gun culture online for a long time,” Cody Wilson, director and co-founder of Defense Distributed, told MintPress News.

“Even if there was an ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] for the Internet, a regulatory agency tasked with only policing the gun culture on the Internet, you could still see how that agency could not keep up with the spread and the speed of human thought.”

The former University of Texas School of Law student has gained notoriety in the tech world for his involvement in a series of controversial digital projects, including Dark Wallet, an application to make bitcoin transactions anonymous and untraceable, and his efforts to spread firearms blueprints to the public via downloadable files. In January, Wired named Wilson one of the “most dangerous people on the Internet right now,” putting him in league with Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

To say he’s a gun rights advocate may be an understatement. But that, mixed with an affinity for anarchist philosophy and technology, informs his “goal,” as described by Wired, “to let anyone create a lethal plastic weapon with a click anywhere in the world, and in doing so demonstrate how new technologies can render the entire notion of regulation obsolete.”

Wilson has his hands in open-source firearms plans which would allow anyone from India to Indianapolis to “print” a gun as long as he or she has access to the Internet and a 3-D printer. He’s designing programs to make cryptocurrency transactions untraceable, ungovernable and untaxable. And, through all of this, he’s found himself at the eye of a legal storm that’s perhaps less about the Second Amendment and untraceable weapons, and more about the First Amendment, digital rights and the public domain.


Downloading controversy from the Liberator to Ghost Gunner

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