The Coming Wiki Weapon Wars

by Reihan Salam

Recently, Dustin Boyer, a very smart acquaintance and one of the thinkers behind the revolutionary but sadly non-existent Tacocopter, raised an interesting question for gun control advocates. Building on the ongoing 3D printing revolution, a small group called Defense Distributed has devised a 3D-printable plastic firearm (the “Wiki Weapon”) that they are hoping to make available to the public. Alexander Hotz of The Guardian reports the following:

Defense Distributed has applied to the IRS to become a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that will focus on “charitable public interest publishing” – or distributing schematics of the weapons online for free. A new research and development limited liability company called Liberty Laboratories will manufacture and test the guns. A third company, the name of which Wilson would not provide, will manage the finances of the project as a private asset organization.

It seems that Defense Distributed is embracing an open-source model, in which the Wiki Weapon will give rise to a community of modders who will improve on and otherwise alter the original concept, setting off a wave of consumer-led innovations. Now for Dustin’s question: how should gun control advocates react to the proliferation of ultra-cheap Wiki Weapons? One assumes that gun control advocates will seek to ban Wiki Weapons, yet it is not obvious that a ban would stop the spread of a technology that will be as accessible as 3D printing, which is becoming more accessible by the day. And of course the question is how should gun control advocates react, not how will they react. Empowering technologies can be frightening to incumbents, particularly when they entail shifting the capacity for armed violence from the state to individuals.   

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.