UT student hopes to make printable gun

"Wiki Weapon" could make owning a gun as simple as pushing a printer button


SAN ANTONIO – Three dimensional printers have been around for several years and have been used to manufacture all kinds of things from toys to replacement parts using plastics, resins and even stainless steel.

Now, Cody Wilson, a University of Texas law student, is using the same technology to print a gun.

With the nation deep into a debate about gun control, Wilson hopes his 3D gun makes a statement.

"I began the process politically, ‘What can I do politically to affect change outside the political process?'" Wilson told the Associated Press. "I believe in the universal access to the firearm and so I chose this technology to affect it's reality."

Wilson called his quest to create a 3D printed gun the "Wiki Weapon Project." His group, Defense Distributed in Austin, is trying to create a digital weapon that can be made into a real firearm by anyone with a home computer, the right files and a 3D printer.

"We don't come at it as being gun nuts. But gun nuts love the project," Wilson said. "All we did was hold our hand up and say hey we're interested in doing this. Would you like the help?"

In less than a year Wilson and his partners in the project have taken his radical idea and turned it into reality, printing gun components that can fire bullets.

In recent months, the project created a functioning AR-15 magazine that can hold 30 rounds. Wilson said within two days of posting the file to make the magazine online, it was downloaded 50,000 times.

So far, the only thing keeping Wilson from making a gun from digital files is the law.

"Right now I can't make a completely printable gun, even a prototype to test one out because it's illegal," Wilson said. "What I'm doing is showing people this is something that can be done right now with this technology."

According to its website, Defense Distributed is currently awaiting its manufacturing federal firearms license which would allow them to make an entire gun.

While the plastic parts frequently fail during test firing, Wilson told the Associated Press the point isn't necessarily to make a functioning, reusable weapon. He just wanted to prove it's possible and share that knowledge with the world.

"What we make won't look like a plastic AR-15 what we make will just be a gun at its most essential. Something that just is a firearm practically speaking," Wilson said. "The product isn't our emphasis. What we're interested in producing is a digital file, the file itself, that can be shared across the internet."

Critics worry Wilson is opening up Pandora's Box by giving anyone nearly immediate access to an undetectable gun which raises all kinds of security questions. Wilson doesn't dismiss his critics, he's looking for a debate.

"These are criticisms that should come up," Wilson said. "That's not an excuse to take these goods away from people who aren't breaking the law."

With 3-D printers drastically dropping in price, Wilson believes it's just a matter of time before this technology is available to anyone who wants it.

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.

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