Texans revolutionizing firearms production
By Aidan Mouellic, Contributor
As the United States government tries to make public access to firearms more difficult, a group in Texas has been using technology to make firearms easier to get a hold of. Using emerging 3-D printing technology, Wilson, the co-founder of the Texan arms manufacturer Defense Distributed, is revolutionizing how firearms are made and regulated. With the help of manufacturing companies such as MakerBot, the prices of 3-D printers have fallen to the point that it’s possible for individuals to now go online or to a store and purchase a 3-D printer for less than $2,000.
To print objects with a 3-D printer, you need to have a computer assisted design (CAD) file to send to the printer. Websites such as MakerBot’s own Thingiverse.com and even torrent aggregator, Pirate Bay, are places where people can find CAD files for objects they wish to print at home. Thingiverse hosted CAD files for parts of firearms, but after public backlash last year took down the files. To fill the void, the decidedly anarcho-capitalist Wilson founded Defense Distributed as a way to sell his own 3-D printed firearms and also setup DEFCAD.org, a site for hosting free CAD files that are firearms related. Earlier this year, Wilson and his team released the CAD file for an AR15 lower receiver that was able to withstand close to a thousand shots.
The two main firearm components being printed using a plastic polymer are the controversial 30-round rifle magazine and the lower receiver of the AR15 rifle system. The lower receiver is what the Canadian and American firearms authorities consider to be the sort of “heart” of the gun and it is the only part of the rifle that is regulated. The other parts that make an AR15 rifle able to fire, such as the barrel and trigger, are able to be purchased in Canada without a firearms license if you are of legal age.
“There are people from all over the world downloading our files, and we say, good—we say you should have access to this,” said Wilson.
DEFCAD.org, combined with a 3-D printer, gives anyone the ability to manufacture the only part needed for an AR15 that is traceable and difficult to get a hold of legally in Canada within your own home. It is also illegal in Canada to own a rifle magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. In the US, Defense Distributed has a federal license to produce and sell their own 3-D printed 30 round magazines in Texas where it is illegal to own such items.
The owners of Makerbot intended their printer to be used for legal purposes, but Wilson sees his use of the technology as an exercise in anarchism. In an interview with Glenn Beck, Wilson says that he “is doing this project and using this technology as a form of resistance, so it’s just a critical use of this technology…we see liberty under threat and sovereignty under threat and we must respond.”