for us is a fantasy. In a way that people say, wait
a minute, you’re being unrealistic about
printing a gun. I think it’s more unrealistic
now, especially going forward, to think you could ever control
[GUNSHOTS]ERIN LEE CARR: 2012 was a bloody
year in America, one that saw 16 mass shootings
in 15 different states. The violence led Helen O’Neill
of the Associated Press to dub
it the year of the gun.It all came to a head on
December 14 in Newtown,
-Units in [INAUDIBLE].
I’ve got bodies here.
Let’s get ambulances.
Thank you.ERIN LEE CARR: That morning,
20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary and killed
20 children and six adults before taking
his own life. BARACK OBAMA: In the hard days
to come, that community needs us to be our best
as Americans. And I will do everything in my
power as President to help. ERIN LEE CARR: In the wake of
the tragedy, President Obama announced 23 executive actions
meant to curb gun violence. Included were universal
background checks, as well as bans on assault weapons and
high capacity magazines. WAYNE LAPIERRE: The only thing
that stops a bad guy with a
gun is a good guy with a gun.ERIN LEE CARR: In defiance,
the NRA and other pro-gun activists stepped up campaigns
that directly opposed any new
gun control regulations.In the midst of this political
firestorm is Cody R. Wilson, a 25-year-old graduate student
crypto-anarchist.Cody is trying to put an end to
the gun control debate with
3D printing.As one of the key figures in the
wiki weapon movement, his goal is to produce and publish
a file for a completely 3D printed firearm, one that anyone
can download and then
create with the right tools.He does this under the banner
of his Austin, Texas-based
company, Defense Distributed.
3D printing or additive
manufacturing works like this–a computer aided design or
CAD file is created. That file is then sent
to a 3D printer. The printer then builds the
object in the CAD file by starting at the base and
applying a series of layers. At the end of the process, a
3D printed item is born. So how will the ability to
self-manufacture untraceable firearms affect the gun
control debate? “Motherboard” traveled to Austin
to get Cody Wilson’s
perspective.CODY R. WILSON: So this
is my warehouse. Basically, it’s a space that
we’ve been using since August.
We have a 3D printer on site.When you get a federal firearms
license, your activity and the location
are all tied
together with the license.So I can’t have a license and
go do things somewhere else. I have to have it
at a location. And this is the Objet Connex
printer that we’ve been using
from the very beginning.Our very first lower receiver
was printed here. I hooked it up to an
upper and fired it. So the project begins, and no
one will listen to you. -So this is testing
the printed lower
with an AR-57 upper.CODY R. WILSON: You fight
just to be heard.
[GUNSHOTS]CODY R. WILSON: Did
you break it? And then something changes,
and then you’re heard. We hypothesized a gun control
future, even when they weren’t
coming for us.ALEX JONES: You said that three
or four months ago.
CODY R. WILSON: That’s right.
Joe Biden?This is no country
for old men.
[GUNSHOTS]CODY R. WILSON: We really don’t
think it’s a stunt, man. I think the state is now making
it easier for us to prove this point, whatever this
permanent assault weapon
ban is going to be.How’s that national conversation
[GUNSHOTS]-Is this guy a hero
or a villain? CODY R. WILSON: That’s
a good question. By Defense Distributed
in Austin, Texas. My partner, Ben Denio, the guy
who basically came up with the idea with me, we were
on the phone. And Ben was like, we could
be arms manufacturers.
That would be cool, right?
What about 3D printing?At that point, we weren’t aware
that anyone had done it
or was trying to.I said, if we could
print a gun, other
people could do this.What if we gave it away,
open source style?
What would that mean?And we realized, wow, this
is really attractive.
You begin with the file.
Often, you have it in CAD.
You can edit it.But you say, well, we don’t
know how this works. So you test it in software
because that’s cheaper.
Than you find your printer.What material does
that printer use? And you say, OK, I’d
like this material.
Let’s see what this can do.
You wait 12 hours.
You wait seven hours.
You might wait a day.
OK, now we have a piece.In the case of lower receivers,
it’s easy. It’s not dangerous
if it failed. ERIN LEE CARR: Defense
Distributed is currently focused on designing a durable
lower receiver, which is the mechanism that houses
the trigger. All of their lower receivers
to this point have been designed for the highly
customizable AR-15, the same type of gun used in the
Sandy Hook massacre. CODY R. WILSON: We couldn’t have
predicted Sandy Hook and
some of these other events.People say, where do you think
your project fits within this greater discussion about
gun control? If we make a Second Amendment
argument, it’s all the way.
It’s to the limit.But I don’t like to make it
about the Second Amendment or
gun control at all.
It’s more radical for us.There are people from all over
the world downloading our
files, and we say, good.We say you should have
access to this.
You simply should.ERIN LEE CARR: We left the
warehouse and traveled across town to Cody’s apartment,
which doubles as Defense
Distributed HQ.It is also home to his
private arsenal. CODY R. WILSON: All the magic
that the ATF loves to regulate
happens right in here.So this is the firearm
None of this is serialized.You can order this right
through the mail. If you’re 12 years old, you can
buy it online, which, I
think, is a thing of beauty.I like fitting the clear piece
to it, because you can see
everything inside.The only problem that this piece
has is it just simply can’t take some of the
And I think we can fix that.So this is 1,080 rounds
of corrosive 5.45×39. What’s great right now about
America is, you can buy
ammunition online.And this is post-Sandy Hook
craze ammo I found–
good deal.The question that I hear a lot
is, well, why does anyone need an ammunition clip for
more than 30 rounds?
Or 30 rounds?
Why does anyone need that?Don’t you know they can do all
kinds of harm with that? Why shouldn’t we limit
their reload times? But I think there’s
an error there. And I can demonstrate
it in other ways. Why does anyone need
two houses? Why does anyone need to make
more than $400,000?
You hear it every day.It’s just a kind of dim view
of human spontaneity. Because we are so free,
everything must be prohibited. I’ve only let one other crew up
here, Canada Global News,
just because they’re so–just like the terrorism,
like they’re just so
terrified by it.For historical purposes, this
is a pre-banned semi-auto. This is what it used
to look like, kids. But if I could do it over, if
I knew that there’d be a ban coming, I’d get into the AR,
because you’re never going to
find 545 laying around.This is version three of our
lower, in fact, our first really successful step
from our first test. So this was our first piece
that could take
us to like 100 rounds.
[GUNSHOTS]CODY R. WILSON: And the design
of the AR system allows this. People have carved lowers
out of wood. We’re not trying to
say, here it is. We’re trying to prove a point,
that look, you can print this
out of plastic.And just to take the “New York
Times” point specifically, you
can do this in your bedroom.It’s to prove this political
point, that look, gun control doesn’t mean what it
meant in 1994.
NICK BILTON: I’m Nick Bilton.I’m a columnist for the “New
York Times” and the lead writer for the “New York Times
Bits Blog.” And I cover technology, and privacy, and
culture, and the things that are changing in society
as a result of those. When you first see something
that’s printed out in three dimensions, it kind of blows
your mind a little bit. And so I’d always tracked this
technology as I had been a reporter at the “Times.” And one
day, I was on Thingiverse which is a website which allows
you to upload parts for 3D printers and then
And I came across a gun part.
And I was kind of blown away.I was like, what
is this thing? The more and I started to
research, the more I started to find out that there was this
very, very small group of people that were exploring
building a 3D gun. CODY R. WILSON: Thingiverse.com,
which is known in the hobby or the maker
community to be this repository of community
information for 3D printing, it decided to take unilateral
action and just remove all
these gun related files.And it seems pretty clear it was
a response to Sandy Hook. So without even judging what
they’re doing, it just is an
act of censorship in my mind.Yeah, they have a terms of
service that say, well, you
can’t have gun files.But they had hosted those files,
some of them for up to
over a year.But those files immediately went
down, and we recognized, OK, people don’t know, at least
in the maker community,
where to go now.So we decided to launch
defcad.org and hosted all the
files that they took down.And then since then, people
have now doubled the files that we have just sending
us files. I get files at least once
a day, sometimes more. Oh, cool, the “Blaze”
article is out. People rushing to download
online blueprints– this will only reinforce
what’s going on. So it’s a piece about our site,
Defcad, talking more or less about how there’s a virtual
rush on– oh, yeah, I posted this list of all
of the government
visitors to our site.There’s not strong sharing
or anything on it yet. NICK BILTON: Cody Wilson had
been featured in “Wired,” I believe, and then he’d also
made the news as his 3D printer had been taken away
after he’d put a video online explaining what he
was going to do. ERIN LEE CARR: On September 26,
2012, Cody was notified that the 3D printer he had
recently began leasing was
The manufacturer’s reasoning?Cody’s lack of a federal
firearms license and his
public statements regarding the
intended use for the printer.CODY R. WILSON: Well,
these boxes are the
uPrint SE Plus printer.This is as far as
I had gotten. So just wondering, did they
tell you guys why you were
-No.CODY R. WILSON: They didn’t
say anything about it?
-No.CODY R. WILSON: So for the
record, I was trying to print
guns with that printer.And they took it away because
I was trying to print guns
with it, just to let you know.
-Oh, that’s cool.NICK BILTON: When I called him
up and we spoke, he just left
the ATF’s offices.They’d actually been discussing
what is legal and
what is not.This was an entirely
new thing. They knew that it was illegal
to own this part for a gun without having it registered
and so on. But when you could make the part
for the gun, that changes the whole course of
the conversation. CODY R. WILSON: OK, that’s the
best way to talk about it. This whole piece begins from an
[INAUDIBLE] file that can be CNC milled into
a metal receiver. It’s just not built for
being in plastic. So when we had fired our first
one, we noticed a lot of give
in the back of the piece.
It was bouncing.
It was flexing.And then the recoil of
the gun tore right
through this buffer tower.So we doubled the thickness
all the way around. And we thought, even marginally,
that improves the strength, especially in the
Objet material we were using. I’m out here with only
two or three
people helping in Austin.We concentrate our efforts
on lowers. And I’m just now starting
with magazines. In fact, the whole operation
has pivoted. I’ve got four or five guys–
really all the people that I know that are talented in
SolidWorks working on high
capacity magazines.It proves the point much
better than the
low receiver does.You can’t ban a box
and a spring. This is a Colt M-16
and a printed
high capacity magazine.
[GUNSHOTS]CODY R. WILSON: We come out
and we say, yeah, we’re
willing to look like idiots.But the interest is in
preserving firearms on the internet, and people
like that message. Despite this whole idea of
Democratic consensus, there’s a lot of people who
So they do whatever they can.
We get donations every day.NICK BILTON: Cody’s
24 years old. When I was 24 years old, I was
reading books about Israel and Gaza and believed that
was this kind of
conspiracy and that.
And it’s part of who we are.
It’s part of what we do.It just happens that Cody has
decided to stick with guns as his thing that he’s going
to fight for. CODY R. WILSON: There’s this
Fukuyamaist idea that history had ended after the Cold War
and that if we could just tweak neoliberal democracy,
everything’s going to be fine forever, that somehow, this is
like the final political form.
This is ridiculous.
And you can see it.There’s no evidence of
a political program
anymore in the world.In America, there aren’t
genuine politics. There’s the media telling you
Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney, is the epic clash of
ideology when we both know
they’re globalist neoliberals.They both exist to preserve
the interests of this relatively autonomous class
of Goldman Sachs bankers. NICK BILTON: He believes that
he’s doing the right thing and that he is perpetuating this
kind of technology and looking
at what it will be.But I also think that there is
definitely a part of what he’s
doing for attention.The reader email I got on that
gun piece was phenomenal. And a large majority of it was,
why are you giving this
kid attention?It’s clear that this is
why he’s doing it. CODY R. WILSON: I don’t remember
a lot about my
exchange with Nick.But it was like very
matter of fact.
He was like, why?
We believe it’s worth doing.The piece disappointed
me a little bit. He’s like, now felons, and
children, and the insane–
OK, blah, blah, blah.This man wants children
to have guns.
I was like, all right, fine.
Take the easy road, fine.But at least he was saying it’s
That’s true.NICK BILTON: A “New York
No, I’m just kidding.
It’s really interesting.As someone who’s been covering
3D printers since they were essentially coming into the
mainstream a little bit, I have seen that the
people that are
interested in them are teenagers.And so my thought when I heard
about what Cody was up to was the fact that the first people
that are probably going to use
these are going to be kids.The reality is, he could be the
canary in the coal mine that is showing us what
the future may be. CODY R. WILSON: So we’re at
one of the service bureaus that helps us out, basically,
one of our
printers north of Austin.We come here to prototype
a lot of our designs. This particular printer is good,
because we can hop on
this almost any time we want.The volume of the machine is
such that we can just come in with other pieces that
are being printed. NICK BILTON: I truly do believe
that in the next decade, the majority of
Americans will have a 3D
printer in their home.
I truly believe that.They will be printing out cups
and plates and furniture and
all these different things.And some of those people
will be printing out
weapons with that.And I think that that’s
something that we should be talking about now, not waiting
until it happens
a decade from now.The science fiction writers
that we all grew up– they imagined worlds where
technology solves problems. They don’t imagine worlds where
it creates problems and
kills people.When Bre and Makerbot and those
guys developed these 3D printers, they imagined people
making clothes hooks and baby pins and all these wonderful
things that make the world a
They had no concept–
none of us had any concept–that these things would be used
to create weapons that
would kill people.You have people like Cody that
come along and look at something that you think is a
cute little kitten and realize that he can program
it to kill people. BRE PETTIS: Other people can
stand on our shoulders and learn from what we’ve done
and take it farther. ERIN LEE CARR: We reached out
to Bre Pettis, who is CEO of Makerbot and co-founder of
Thingiverse, but he refused to
comment on this story.NICK BILTON: Technology always
moves quicker than the law. It was six years before Facebook
was actually held accountable for all the privacy
things that they’d
done by the FTC.Six years and a billion users
before the FTC actually caught up to the things that
they had done. And this is happening now with
3D printers and guns. CODY R. WILSON: I’ve read a
lot of the criticisms, the back and forth in the maker
community and the tech community about, well,
3D printing is
like desktop printing.
No, it’s not.
It’s nothing like it at all.
It’s not going to be the same.
Who can know?I do see how there’s materials
like carbonmorph coming out. There’s complex materials coming
out, even for cheap
printers in unexpected ways.And I think if complex materials
can keep being developed for 3D printing, it
is going to be what some people are saying about it,
a real step forward. Some people are willing to
run all the way with it.
Maybe we’re some of them.
We’re like, oh, whole guns.But it’s a vision
Thank you, man.
That’s good.So here’s the piece
we picked up. So this, I think, revision,
was it three?
-Yeah.CODY R. WILSON: Do you
remember the file?
It’s stained and everything?-Yeah, this is a black
coating on it.
CODY R. WILSON: It’s badass.
It’s not threaded?
-No.CODY R. WILSON: We’ve
got this. I got my tap wrench to work
finally after the other day. We’re printing two
They’re both 30-round.And the point is just
So one is a USGI mag.It probably won’t
work very long. But one of these shells
I think really will. But anything over ten at this
point proves a point. The only things recognized and
promulgated in this business culture are irreversible
progress, growth.To have a symbolic gift, like
the printable gun does so much ideological damage and violence
to these ideas. You these progressives talk all
the time about the wrong
side of history.Somehow we’re going to
get to some result. And it’s all going to
be a whole and good.
And we say, no.Here’s an element of
reversibility. And there’s nothing you
can do about it. It’s like the intelligence and
transparency of evil itself.
It can’t be ignored.ERIN LEE CARR: A supporter of
Defense Distributed joined us
for the field test.He asked that we not
use his real name. CODY R. WILSON: You know,
Feinstein’s bill would regulate semi-autos harsher than
fully automatic weapons, if it was to be passed today
as it was proposed.
You think it’s all right?See that hammer spring in
there on the right? -Firearms are so demonized
as something that’s
going to hurt somebody.But what a firearm actually
is, is a tool. And it depends on how you would
like to utilize it. And you can’t really ban
something based upon the
individual intent.With all these mass killings
going on, it was their intent
to do that.If they really wanted
to do it, they
wouldn’t need a firearm.They would do whatever
it takes to do what
they want to do.CODY R. WILSON: Don’t tell me
we’re going to get all the way out here and this isn’t
going to work.
-We’ll make it work.CODY R. WILSON: Well, we’re
going to need a hammer. ERIN LEE CARR: As Cody and his
associate began fitting the lower receiver to the
AR-15, they ran into
an unexpected problem.The black dye that the
manufacturer applied to the piece make it slightly
too thick to fit with
the rest of the gun.CODY R. WILSON: We’ve
never worked with
a dyed piece before.
Let’s try it.Last time, I just used the
hammer and got it through,
Just fine.Maybe this paint will give
it like a 0.01% strength improvement, and we’ll break
100 rounds today.
CODY R. WILSON: Empty?
-Done.CODY R. WILSON: Oh,
we broke it?
I thought it would do well.
How many rounds was that?
-Well, I’ve got a mag.CODY R. WILSON: At this point,
this is like, what, gen three? We know how this one
is going to break. So it’s just like we told
you, right through the–
-27 rounds.CODY R. WILSON: We know that
we’re already in a better
place than this.But I’m happy to demonstrate
30 rounds for you today.
[GUNSHOTS]ERIN LEE CARR: Shortly after
we wrapped filming, Defense Distributed posted this video
on their YouTube page. It shows the latest version of
their lower receiver firing over 600 rounds without
failure. When we reached out to the ATF
for a comment on this story, a representative told us that
there are currently no restrictions on an individual
manufacturing firearms for
personal use.They then directed us
towards their FAQ. Then on March 16, Defense
Distributed announced that the ATF had approved Cody Wilson’s
application for a federal
firearms license.Cody is now able to sell the
3D printed lower receivers.
But he won’t.CODY R. WILSON: I don’t
think we’re utopians. I think the real utopia is the
idea that we can go back to the 1990s, and everything
will be perfect forever. All we’re saying is,
no, you can’t.
Now there’s the Internet.
Like VICE News? Subscribe to our news channel: http://bit.ly/Subscribe-to-VICE-News Check out more episodes of Motherboard here: http://bit.ly/1nDXJJ5 Cody R Wilson has figured out how to print a semi-automatic rifle from the comfort of his own home. Now he’s putting all the information online so that others will join him. — This is a story about the rapid evolution of a technology that has forced the American legal system to play catch up. Cody Wilson, a 25 year old University of Texas Law student, is an advocate for the open source production of firearms using 3D printing technology. This makes him a highly controversial figure on both sides of the gun control issue. MOTHERBOARD sat down with Cody in Austin, Texas to talk about the constitution, the legal system, and to watch him make and test-fire a 3D-printed gun. Check out our podcast with Cody here: http://bit.ly/VICE-Podcast-Cody-Wilson Produced By Erin Lee Carr Edited by Chris O’Coin Read more on MOTHERBOARD here: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/clic… To find out more about what the ATF says about 3D-printed guns, read this: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-…