Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Maker of 3-D Printed Guns Speaks Out at SXSW: They’re Real, and They’re Not Going Away

There’s been a fair amount of attention on 3-D printing this week at SXSW, and most of it wasn’t focused on guns.

Until today.

Cody Wilson, a law student at University of Texas and founder of a nonprofit organization called Defense Distributed, spoke today about his process for 3-D printing guns at home. He appeared on stage alone, and used slides to show some of his arsenal.

Only a smattering of conference attendees sat in the ballroom. Many more were at another, concurrent session — a showcase for Google Glass.

But Wilson, who has been profiled in recent months by Forbes, the New York Times and Ars Technica, made his message clear to those in attendance: 3-D guns are a real thing, and he doesn’t plan to stop making them.

“If you’ve been listening to all the press, you would think 3-D printing is just about making cupcakes, or lawn gnomes,” he said. “But if 3-D printing is going to be a meaningful technology, printing guns is going to be a part of that.”

Wilson went on to say that 3-D gun printing isn’t just about hardware, but also software. Defense Distributed has an online repository of around 100 3-D design files, he said, which have been downloaded more than 400,000 times since the end of December. Wilson is now launching a search engine for the 3-D printed gun files.

In early March, Wilson released a video that showed an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle firing off 600 rounds. The important part of that story is that the “lower” had been 3-D printed by Wilson and fellow members of Defense Distributed, using durable plastic.

Wilson has been quoted as saying that parts made with lower-quality materials can be built for as little as $50. His projects, which are funded through direct contributions after crowdsourcing site IndieGogo rejected Wilson, have already been the subject of much scrutiny.

And, as the aforementioned stories make clear, he isn’t the only person using 3-D printing to create parts for firearms.

Reports of 3-D-printed guns spurred New York Representative Steve Israel (D-Huntington) in January to seek the renewal of an act that bans 3-D-printed ammunition magazines. The existing ban expires this year.

Wilson addressed this directly, saying, “He [Israel] thinks this is how we’re all going to rid ourselves of Wiki-weapons, and that’s false. We’ve applied for a federal firearms manufacturing license,” he added.

Toward the end of the session, audience members asked Wilson about his larger goals with Distributed Defense, his positions on gun control not only in the U.S. but in other countries, and whether he’d be willing to compromise on his 3-D printing beliefs or work with the government to try to prevent another Sandy Hook.

“I’m not soliciting help from the government. I’m not looking for shelter protection. We are trying to follow the law as it is now and be good citizens. But we’re maintaining a freedom of speech.”

“I don’t view government as a benign institution,” Wilson concluded.


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