3D Printing Gun Debate Heats Up Again: Wiki Weapon and ATF
Can 3D printers be used to create guns? We first discussed a hobbyist who was 3D printing automatic weapon parts in July and again covered the topic of using 3D printing for dangerous goods in August.
Now, the New York Times’ Bits Blog is adding to the controversy with its own feature about “building a gun with the push of a button.”
Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, is in the process of building a completely functional printed gun. “We hope to have this fully tested and put the files online in the next couple of months,” said Mr. Wilson, who runs a Web site called Defense Distributed.
He calls the gun the Wiki Weapon. In a video explaining the project’s goals, he describes the Wiki Weapon as the world’s first “3-D printable personal defense system.”
Below is a video of Cody Wilson promoting his Wiki Weapon.
Will this really make an impact given that there are so many guns in circulation each year via loopholes or illegal transfer? Perhaps not.
“Forty percent of guns are sold through a loophole at gun shows, where people are already able to buy a firearm without having to go through a background check,” said Daniel Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “There’s already a permanent ‘gun show’ on the Internet.”
One interesting angle not raised before is the role of law enforcement and regulation in this overall debate.
Under most circumstances, it is not illegal to build your own gun, but it has been pretty difficult. Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said people had made firearms out of pens, books and belt buckles. But those contraptions and conventional firearms require a certain amount of knowledge and skill.
Ms. Colbrun said the agency was keeping a close watch on 3-D printers. “A.T.F. always tries to stay ahead of the illegal activity and the novel firearms trafficking schemes, without impinging on individuals’ rights,” she said.
In the case of Wiki Weapon, the 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys stepped in before law enforcement needed to and seized the 3D printer back before Wilson could print his first gun, saying “It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes.” (via Guardian)