An Open Letter to Cody Wilson, Defense Distributed (DefDis):The Company Planning to make its Plastic 3D Photocopier Gun Available on the Internet

Subject: An Open Letter to Cody Wilson, Defense Distributed (DefDis):The Company Planning to make its Plastic 3D Photocopier Gun Available on the Internet
From: Rob
Date: 7 May 2013

Dear Mr Wilson
You are clearly a clever guy. Congratulations on perfecting, testing and successfully firing the world’s first plastic gun, “The Liberator” that can be constructed using a 3D printer. I understand that your plan is to upload the plans to the Internet so that anyone with access to a 3D printer can download them, for free, and make the Liberator. Why?

DefDis is a non-profit company, and I guess I should applaud your altruism and willingness to share your ingenuity with anyone and everyone. But therein lays the problem. Anyone and everyone cannot be guaranteed to make the gun as a hobby project (rather like making a scaled plastic kit model of a plane, ship, or even a replica gun).

I understand that you have an idea that by making your weapon (is it not a weapon?) available to all, you are allowing everyone in the world, not just the United States, to grasp the Second Amendment to the US constitution; the right to bear arms. Including plastic arms.

You have said that the Liberator will be made of 16 parts, printed out of ABS, the conventional, fairly sturdy 3D-printed thermoplastic. You say that it is not entirely plastic; there will be just one metal part the firing pin. The firing of the gun has been given a great deal of publicity, and the sound of that shot has reverberated around the world. Even given that those who print off the gun will have to obtain a firing pin and ammunition, can you not see that you are placing an almost perfect weapon in the hands of terrorists. Even if the gun’s plastic barrel becomes unreliable after a few shots, it can be smuggled onto a plane, oblivious and undetected, and used to promote whatever extremist cause is flavour of the day.

And not just extremists. The world, especially the US, is full of the unhinged, the uninhibited, and the mentally unwell, who may seize upon the opportunity to go one up in the “look at me I’m dangerous” stakes by having a gun that can main or kill.

I urge you to think again about what you are planning to do. It is not altruism it is madness, and will cause others to labour long and hard to manufacture their own variants of your Liberator, perhaps perfecting a model than can use household objects for the firing pin and a metal barrel… You may have started a landslide in design and build it yourself weapons.

I can appreciate that you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, Mr Wilson, but you can at least not give the secret to opening the bottle to everyone with access to a PC, the internet, and a 3D printer?
While there is legislation that could be brought to bear; the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, once the plans are out there, will you take the rap for everyone who downloads the plans? The law may well be unenforceable in practice.

I hope that you reconsider your decision to make the plans for the Liberator freely available on the internet. How long will it be before the first one is used, intentionally or mistakenly, to injure or kill? How will that play on your conscience Mr Wilson? Or is that as plastic as your gun?