Cody Wilson had a vision to forward the digital revolution by creating the nation’s first firearm on a 3-D printer, and, taking a page from WikiLeaks, share the blueprints with the world via the Internet in what he called the “Wiki Weapons project.” Now he is suing the federal government in hopes of keeping his dream on target – and staying out of prison.
Wilson was so taken with the idea, he dropped out of law school and designed “The Liberator,” the nation’s first pistol built exclusively on a 3-D printer, consisting of 12 separate parts made from plastic and a single metal firing pin.
Within two days of publishing the blueprints on the Internet, on May 5, 2013, 100,000 people around the world had downloaded them. The goal, Wilson said, was to invalidate the government’s “unconstitutional” hold on gun technology. “The technology will break gun control,” said Wilson, who formed the non-profit organization, Defense Distributed, with his partner, Ben Denio, in Little Rock, Ark., in the summer of 2012. “I stand for freedom.”
But Wilson’s invention also caught the attention of the State Department, which came after him with both barrels blazing. The feds claimed Wilson violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which “requires advance government authorization to export technical data,” and as a result, could spend up to 20 years in prison and be fined as much as $1 million per violation.
Wilson was ordered to remove the blueprints for The Liberator from his website. The government also told him they were claiming ownership of his intellectual property. “Defense Distributed is being penalized for trying to educate the public about 3-D guns,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Washington-based Second Amendments Foundation, whose organization is backing Defense Distributed in a court action.
A metal printer that can build a firearm costs about $10,000 and the price continues to drop. Meanwhile, some government agencies have proposed forcing those who purchase printers to register them as they would firearms. “The government does not know how to even begin to deal with these problems,” said John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and a frequent FoxNews.com columnist. “I understand that government wants to regulate this, but it is too late. Technology moves faster than government.”