The debate surrounding 3D printed guns may be relatively new, but there’s already a documentary that dives into the controversy surrounding it. “3D Printed Guns” follows Cody Wilson, one of the men at the heart of the debate.
Wilson is a self-avowed crypto-anarchist, law student, and the founder of the non-profit organization Defense Distributed. Nicknamed “Wiki Weapons,” this organization distributes CAD files of gun parts. Anybody with an Internet connection and access to a 3D printer can download the file and create critical, fully functional gun components in mere minutes.
The controversy surrounding this practice isn’t that average citizens are able to control the manufacturing process of guns – there is already a thriving community of gun modders and most gun manufacturing companies are privately owned. The problem lies in the fact that these guns easily evade federal regulations because production is decentralized.
At the head of this movement, Cody Wilson has been focusing on designing a durable lower receiver (the part of the gun that contains the trigger) for the highly customizable AR-15. Lower receivers are considered firearms by law, meaning that a person is considered by the state to own a gun as soon as he purchases a lower receiver. By contrast a gun enthusiast can buy and trade other gun parts (such as the stock, upper receiver, and barrel) without worrying about regulation.
Wilson’s lower receiver design cuts Uncle Sam out of the equation by giving average citizens all of the tools they need to create a firearm.
The documentary doesn’t just focus on the manufacturing process behind the AR-15 lower receiver; it also tackles the debate surrounding the issue. Wilson says in the film, “We hypothesized a gun control future, even when they weren’t coming for us,” adding, “You fight just to be heard.”
Even though Wilson may not have the law on his side, he definitely has practicality in his corner. Government agencies will have a nearly impossible task at hand if they fight to ban printed guns. 3D printers are perfectly legal (not to mention incredibly useful) and the lower receiver is so simple that it would be difficult to restrict production. As Wilson points out, “You can’t ban a box and a spring.”