Anyone in the world could soon have access to a 3D printable gun through the internet thanks to a U.S. start-up which plans to distribute schematics for the weapons free of charge.
Defense Distributed, a company which wants to extend the U.S. Second Amendment rights to the entire world, hopes to test prototypes of the printable weapons by the end of the year.
‘This project could very well change the way we think about gun control and consumption,’the organisation says on their website.
‘How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the Internet? Let’s find out.’
Cody Wilson, a spokesman for the so-called ‘Wiki Weapon’ project, told guardian.co.uk that the organisation is only waiting on a license to allow them to legally manufacture firearms in the U.S.
They have already come up with two blueprints for plastic firearms, but now needs to test the designs to ensure they are safe to use when printed on less-expensive 3D printers.
‘These guns will be almost completely plastic, so melting and failing in your hand will be a concern,’ Defense Distributed says.
‘Only after testing a few dozen designs to failure will we discover the right limitations to be comfortable rating a WikiWep as safe for one use.’
It adds: ‘We want to minimize negative media about the safety concerns of untested firearms and the inevitable suggestions that governments should protect us from ourselves.’
The group so far claims to have developed two prototype plastic handguns. The first, called Wiki Weapon type A, is a training gun with no moving parts. It relies on an electrical solenoid to fire bullets but the rest of the weapon is 3D printable.
The more ambitious Wiki Weapon type B will have movable parts, but the organisation hopes to refine these to make it possible to print them on entry-level 3D printers that can be used at home.
They promise that blueprints usable in computer aided design programs will be available to download from their website ‘in the coming weeks’.
A third project allows users to print the regulated part of an AR-15 submachine gun, then build the rest from unregulated parts freely available in U.S. gun shops.
The researchers behind the Wiki Weapon project had initially hoped to create and test their prototypes without a licence, but intense media interest has led to problems which threatened to derail their progress.
The group’s account on crowd-funding website Indiegogo was in September frozen and nearly $2,000 already raised was returned to donors and last month the company from which they had planned to lease the equipment to create their first prototypes repossessed its printer, the Guardian reported.
Two Texas-based companies, whose names are not known, have since volunteered space and a 3D printer for the Wiki Weapon team to carry out manufacturing and ballistics testing.
The organisation, which began as a loose online collective, has restructured and registered with the U.S. government to ensure there are no more legal barriers.
‘I have no interest in going to jail,’ Mr Wilson said. ‘I’ll do it their way if I need to.’
Wiki Weapon’s designs are intended for printing on the kinds of 3D printers available to hobbyists, such as the RepRap – a low-cost open source prototyping system designed to be easily distributed.
The people behind the project see it as the ultimate expression of free speech, with the advent of 3D printing representing the kind of advance that the orginal printing press gave to society.
Answering the question ‘why guns?’, Defense Distributed says on its website: ‘Guns prove out some of our younger generations’ beliefs about information and sharing at an extremity.
‘If we truly believe information should be free, that the internet is the last bastion of freedom and knowledge, and that societies that share are superior to societies that censor and withhold, then why not guns?’
Mr Wilson added: ‘Consider this: a CAD file containing the information for a 3D printable weapons system.
‘If that file was seeded by 30 people, let’s say, as long as there is a free internet thhat file is available to anyone at any time, all over the world.
‘Now that gun can be anywhere. Any bullet is now a weapon.’
‘But Defence Distributed’s goal is not really personal armament, it’s more the liberation of information. It’s about living in a world where you just download the file for the thing you want to make.
‘[Just] As the printing press revolutionised literacy, 3D printing is in its moment.’