The federal government has demanded that ultra-libertarian group Defense Distributed remove its how-to guide for making a 3D printed gun. While the group has complied, the State Department is kidding itself if it thinks 3D guns will actually disappear from the Internet.
Regardless of one's opinion on the distribution of instructions for making a plastic gun, the real news story here is that the government is probably making this download even more popular.
Via the magic of the Internet – and ultra-libertarian groups everywhere – the blueprint has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and is still available on a multitude of other sites like this one, this one, and this one. I mean, obviously you’ll need a 3D printer, which you can buy at Staples for a cool $1,299, but if you are really out to create a gun that can’t be detected with a metal detector, is short a firing pin (because you really can’t make those out of plastic), and will probably fall apart after your first use, then more power to you.
The point here is that the government has just drawn more attention to the fact that the Internet can’t be stopped, especially not by the government issuing a letter.
The guide was created and distributed in the public domain by Cody Wilson, the 25-year-old founder of Defense Distributed, who describes himself as a “crypto-anarchist.”
“We got an official letter from the Secretary of State, telling me who they were, what their authority was under U.S. law, and telling me they want to review these files to see if they’re class one munitions,” Wilson told Betabeat. “That includes blueprints.”
In the letter, the Department of Defense Trade Controls – an agency managed by the State Department – said the file violated the Arms Export Control Act because the organization’s website uses servers in New Zealand, and sharing such information on foreign servers equals illegal export.
Wilson has complied with the request to remove the blueprint, posting a message on the group’s website that reads, “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”
The gun, which does basically the same thing as a conventional pistol, fires real bullets and can even be outfitted with a silencer. It is made up of 16 pieces of plastic and a nail, which functions as a firing pin. While the concern is that the gun would be able to make it through metal detectors without notice, the gun would have to be emptied of bullets and without a firing pin – as both of those things continue to necessitate metal, making the gun functionally useless in the context of a metal detector.
The creators of the gun actually included a six-ounce piece of metal in the design for the purpose of preventing them from going undetected through metal detectors, though anyone could simply remove this piece should they want it to be undetectable.
But again, regardless of angry letters and gun-control issues, the blueprints for this device will be available on the internet regardless of what the State Department decides about its legality for a long while. Welcome to the 21st century.