RSS

The Bulletin

Printable guns: Wiki Weapon project suffers second setback

Posting in Technology

Stratasys has pulled the plug on Cody Wilson's 3D printed pistol "Wiki Weapon" project by revoking his printer lease.

The Wiki Weapon project gained controversial fame online after a series of photos were published to an online forum revealing how an open-source blueprint could be used to create components for printable guns. According to Wired, the desktop-manufacturing company has sent a team to Wilson's home to seize the printer.

The Wiki Weapon project is not only about building a pistol with easily obtainable plastic parts, but also to provide a forum for others to eventually share 3D weapon schematics and CAD files online -- something difficult for governmental agencies to control, and potentially placing a gun in the hands of anyone with or without a firearm license.

The group headed by Wilson, Defense Distributed, formed the initiative and managed to raise $20,000 to lease the Stratasys uPrint SE 3D printer after experimenting with low-cost printers like the MakerBot Replicator. Donations were collected through crowd-funder IndieGoGo before its listing was taken down in violation of the site's terms of service -- forcing the developers to switch to PayPal and Bitcoin.

The University of Texas law student recieved a notice from the company last week, which stated "It is the policy of Stratasys not to knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes," before sending a team to collect the printer.

However, state-regulation pending, is it against the law to create weapons at home? Stratasys probably didn't want to be linked to a project that could result in serious consequences by making firearm possession easy, but the legal ramifications are confusing. The U.S. Department of Justice rules:

"With certain exceptions a firearm may be made by a non-licensee provided it is not for sale and the maker is not prohibited from possessing firearms. However, a person is prohibited from assembling a non-sporting semi-automatic rifle or non-sporting shotgun from imported parts. In addition, the making of an NFA firearm requires a tax payment and approval by ATF.

An application to make a machine gun will not be approved unless documentation is submitted showing that the firearm is being made for a Federal or State agency."

The legal area is murky, as Wilson plans to manufacture weapons but not sell them. However, there is also another law set in place by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which requires "any other weapon, other than a pistol or a revolver .. capable of being concealed on the person" to be reviewed. As the weapon has plastic parts, the project could be pulled based on the premise that it isn't a standard pistol, so would classify as 'any other weapon' and be in the same category as sawed-off shotguns or explosives.

Can the project be rescued? Apparently so. Wilson told sister site CNET that he is considering applying for a firearms license to side-step legal issues:

"I was annoyed at first, but this has only excited our network and contacts. Two steps forward. Getting another printer will be easy. Incorporating and filling out a bunch of federal paperwork is what's regrettable."

Image credit: Wiki Weapon Project

Related:

— By on October 1, 2012, 8:21 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure