A new and game-changing development may make the ongoing debate regarding gun ownership obsolete, and engender a new style of twenty-first century sophistication. Defense Distributed, a firm founded by Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, has made plans for a three dimensional plastic handgun, the Liberator, available online .
The US government quickly demanded the plans be removed, but not before 100,000 copies of the blueprint-for-firepower were downloaded. Wilson speaks as an activist: “I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people. That’s what it is — it’s a gun. But I don’t think that’s a reason to not put it out there. I think that liberty in the end is a better interest.”
Wilson told media representatives that he hopes to make weapons available to anyone who wants them. He claims a bid, he says, to keep governments accountable to the people. Wilson is quoted: “You can print a lethal device. It’s kind of scary, but that’s what we’re aiming to show. Anywhere there’s a computer and an Internet connection, there would be the promise of a gun.” Cody Wilson went on to say that the Liberator project was intended to highlight how technology can render laws and governments all but irrelevant.
3D printing is hailed today as a great breakthrough that may change all of our lives. In fact, the technique goes back some thirty years. Until recently, a model for a new contrivance was analyzed, then fabricated using additive manufacturing methods. Now an item can be designed and produced by simply downloading an on-line blueprint, and setting the operation in motion. The original item is broken into its integral parts, the parts duplicated, then the final product is ready for reassembling. The technique involved is referred to as computer aided design (CAD) and utilizes animation modeling software which the duplicator uses to slice items into digital cross-sections as guidelines for printing. Various plastic-like materials and multiple colors and color combinations can be applied.
All 16 parts of the Liberator are made from heat-resistant plastic. The Liberator gun is a new and controversial use of this new technology. The Liberator designation comes from a pistol used by U.S. military in World War II. Both are crude weapons and fire but a single shot. The new Liberator features a short barrel and a smooth bore, making it relatively inaccurate. The developing group successfully fired a small .380-caliber pistol round. An attempt to use a larger projectile blew the gun to pieces.
Forbes Magazine offers more detail: “it can be fired at least once without damage to the body of the gun or the person at the trigger.” They call the weapon, “More of a zip-gun, than a pistol:”…
Is it a real pistol? No. This is more of a zip gun than a pistol. Zip guns were improvised firearms made of tubes, rubber bands, and nails. Kids fool-hardy enough to shoot one … were promised a second of hair-raising and potentially deadly excitement when they made zip guns out of pipe and rubber. To fire one, you fitted the cartridge into the pipe and pulled back on the nail attached to the rubber band. If it hit the charger properly the bullet would fire. A similar thing is happening here: a spring-loaded nail is hitting a cartridge.
Upon learning of the online availability of Liberator blueprints, the U.S. Department of Defense Trade Controls removed the files from public access, and ran a banner across the top of the website: “Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.” In addition, corporate founder Wilson told reporters he had received an order from the Pentagon to take down the gun specs. Using the banned file, anyone with a 3D printer could assemble the weapon with no serial number, no background check, no regulatory hurdles.
In response, New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer announced his plan to introduce legislation that will ban the weapons because they can pass through metal detectors at airports and court houses without being picked up. Schumer told the press, “We’re facing a situation where anyone – a felon, a terrorist – can open a gun factory in their garage and the weapons they make will be undetectable. It’s stomach-churning.” Senator Schumer hopes to renew an earlier ban on undetectable weapons, and include a ban on plastic high-capacity magazines. “People have made silencers, stocks, triggers and lots of other gun parts. They can then upload these digital blueprints to the web and then anyone with one of these printers.”
Current law bans all-plastic weaponry.