3D-printed gun shot sparks new arms race

Cody Wilson takes the historic shot. Credit: © Defense Distributed
Cody Wilson takes the historic shot.
Credit: © Defense Distributed

Shots fired from Cody Wilson’s ‘Liberator’ have sparked a wider battle, following the US student’s successful test of the first fully 3D-printed firearm Sunday, with fears that homemade guns could flood the market.

Wilson, 25, has made the source code for the weapons available on his company website Defense Distributed, which has attracted thousands of downloads. “Currently Spain tops the ‪#Liberator download chart. Followed closely by USA,” he tweeted Tuesday. The YouTube video of the test has received almost 1.5 million views in 48 hours.

The breakthrough surprised experts who believed that the plastic printing material – undetectable for airport security – was not strong enough to support gunfire. “It’s an achievement with clever design features that play to the strengths of 3D printing,” US-based gunsmith Michael Guslick told Metro. “It proves that printing guns is realistic and has obviously generated a lot of interest.”

Wilson, an anti-government activist, who hopes to “kill the spirit of gun control,” has also attracted more than $20,000 in funding, largely from users of untraceable digital currency Bitcoin. “The movement has strong ties to Defense Distributed, sharing an ideology against state control and censorship,” a spokesman for London Bitcoin exchange told Metro. “The company has huge potential and unlimited support.”

Wilson has already indicated plans to produce assault weapons, and the potential has scared gun control advocates. “A felon can essentially open a gun factory in their garage,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives admits it has no way to stop Wilson, having already issued him a manufacturing and distribution licence.

But the technology is still expensive and inefficient. “The number of people with access to such printers is extremely limited,” said Michael Weinberg of policy think tank Public Knowledge. “There are better ways to acquire, make and distribute guns if you want to do that.”


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