In the past week, a furor has erupted over the information on how to build “The Liberator,” a plastic, semi-automatic pistol that can be manufactured by dedicated amateurs with a 3d printer. The blue prints for the strange-looking weapon were originally released on the web by the organization “Defense Distributed,” then subsequently removed because of pressure from the state department.
Currently, domains like The Pirate Bay are continuing to propagate the information via torrent. The new home of the internet’s most famous gun is not ideal for those who seek to laud its credibility, but, according to more recent sources, despite the 100,000+ downloads, there is very little evidence to indicate that anyone is actually building it. Ergo, the Liberator is more of a metaphorical weapon, more likely to stir the public with implications than with violent power.
The spirit of the Liberator is on a gun rack, with other printable plastic gun parts — like a DIY lower receiver for an AR15 assault rifle — on a theoretical wall between person-to-person file sharing, and "IRL" goods manufacturing. This wall stands at the outer limits of the creative rights granted by the first and second amendments, and, paradoxically is a harbinger of destruction.
The gun, like the wheel, or the printed word, is an essential object in the pantheon of human engineering. The construction and utilization of projectile weaponry will be perpetually revisited by people who are curious enough to tinker, or desperate enough to try and MacGyver themselves a deadly weapon.
There is a pre-existing culture of hand made gun makers in America, wherein spare parts, power tools, and scrap metal could become a functioning rifle with the persistence of crafty individual. This practice is far less democratized than the Liberator printing process. What could have be described as DIY hobby is now becoming a technical automation, accessible anywhere with internet access and electric power, by anybody. However, because of the handmade gun's long standing existence, its stand to apple-to-apple comparisons with the potential outcome of the Liberator's possible advent.
There have been seizures of hand made, metal weapons, by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. These seizures are in accordance with the ATF’s are performed in response to gun-makers refusal to receive the ATF’s consent, and pay a corresponding tax. There is no record of a violent incident where a hand made gun is involved.
With this knowledge, and given the apparent dearth of liberator replicas out in the world, people should not worry about an advent of homemade weaponry. The guns that deserve worriment already exist. Any criminal or violent misfit in the United States has easier access to stolen, professionally manufactured firearms than they do a 3D printer.