Defense Distributed revealed their 3D printable gun, named “Liberator,” earlier this month. The 3D printer blueprints for the gun were downloaded over 100,000 times within 2 days after their release, before being seized by the US government. For Cody Wilson, CEO of Defense Distributed, the Liberator is a more than a gun: it’s a new generation of open source physibles that aims to change the way we think about gun control and force the government to react to an unprecedented shift in distribution. If anything, this is a testament to the inability of the US government to react appropriately to this issue and the futility of gun control.
On May 8th, the US government seized the files necessary to create the Liberator, citing that it violates ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). Regardless of whether this decision was constitutional, it was most definitely useless in stopping the distribution of the blueprint. In fact here is the link to the torrent for the Liberator files: http://thepiratebay.sx/torrent/8443467. The regulation of physical goods is only effective when said goods are inherently difficult to acquire or produce. Home-made firearms, dubbed improvised firearms, have always been under watch by the government. These weapons are constructed with mostly common parts but remain very lethal. However, a certain level of skill and dedication is required, which has limited their potential as a “gun for everyone”.
The Liberator itself is quite unimpressive: a low caliber, single-shot pistol that is generally not capable of firing multiple shots before damaging the barrel or body. Still, it is a revolutionary innovation in its own right. Never before has the everyday citizen had such ease of access to their own firearm. Click. Print. Shoot. With 3D printer prices on the decline, a “gun for everyone” is becoming a reality. Moreover, this is the first generation of printed guns. Defense Distributed or other groups are undoubtedly looking towards improving on the design.
With the gun plans distributed on the internet, there is no stopping its distribution, only slowing it. How can current gun control laws or the removal of the plans from Defense Distributed’s websites stop the distribution and ultimately the creation of this gun? In its current form, gun control laws are becoming less and less relevant. Mr. Wilson has stated that the Liberator aims to “kill the spirit of gun control entirely”. It is up to US government to radically change the way they manage the production and distribution of guns in light of this development.