The Corner

Printing 3-D Firearms a Step Closer to Reality

I noted recently the possibility that 3-D printers could be used to manufacture firearms. Since then, the theory has taken a leap towards reality. From Forbes:

A firearm anyone can download and print in their own home may be the most controversial application yet of consumer 3D printing. But some gunlovers, it seems, want to see it happen badly enough to put their wallets behind it.

This week, the so-called Wiki Weapon Project, an initiative that aims to design and build the world’s first entirely 3D-printable handgun, met its goal of raising $20,000 from Internet donors, according to the group’s spokesperson, University of Texas law student Cody Wilson. That’s about ten times the amount the project had managed to raise through the crowdsourced fundraising site Indiegogo when the donation platform summarily booted the printable gun project from its website last month and refunded the group’s pool of contributions to donors.

Indiegogo is, of course, free to set whatever rules it wishes and to restrict the ends to which its service can be used. But if its intent was to quash the idea, it will not work. For better or for worse, this is the future; there is no good reason to think that attempts to prevent firearms from being “printed” will be any more successful than other forms of gun control or prohibition. (For a quick introduction to the principles behind 3-D printing, click here.)

There appears to be a solid level of enthusiasm for the principle:

The Wiki Weapon Project, hosted by a group that calls itself Defense Distributed, set out in July with the goal of raising enough money to hold a design competition among 3D-printable software models for a working gun capable of firing at least a single .22 caliber bullet that can be printed on a relatively cheap RepRap 3D printer.

“We want to show this principle: That a handgun is printable,” Wilson told me last month. “You don’t need to be able to put 200 rounds through it…It only has to fire once. But even if the design is a little unworkable, it doesn’t matter, as long as it has that guarantee of lethality.”

If the notion of anyone being able to create a lethal weapon in their own home scares you–particularly after the recent string of gun tragedies in places likeColoradoNew Jersey, and New York–you’re not alone. About a month after the Wiki Weapon project’s launch, Indiegogo sent Defense Distributed an email saying its funds had been frozen due to “unusual account activity,” and followed up with an explanation that it had violated Indiegogo’s terms of service, which don’t allow the sale of “ammunition, firearms, or certain firearm parts or accessories.”

To what end will the cash be employed?

With its current pot, Wilson says the group will be able to rent a UPrint SE Plus printer, buy a Lenovo workstation for software modeling as well as the RepRap 3D printer it hopes to adapt its model to work for, and still have plenty of funds to offer between $3,000 and $5,000 in its design competition.

Wilson describes the group’s funders as including “gunsmiths, a lot of tea party patriots, enthusiastic engineers, retired businessmen, fathers, and engineering students.”

The rest here.


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