Cody Wilson, 26, founded Defense Distributed in 2012 for the explicit purpose of demonstrating how 3D printers can produce working plastic handguns as well as replacement parts for existing rifles. Wilson, a former student of the University of Texas School of Law, posted the plans for his Liberator gun online for anyone to download. Although the U.S. government forced him to remove the plans last year, the Genie was already out of the bottle. The CAD drawings had been downloaded tens of thousands of times.
Wilson has been described as a "free-market anarchist," and Wired magazine named him one of "The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World."
Over the past two years, universities and government agencies around the world, including ATF in the U.S., have launched campaigns to inform the public how dangerous guns printed using Wilson's plans and thermoplastics are. Most recently, Britain's University of Warwick and the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) said their tests showed the weapon suffering "catastrophic failures" that were more dangerous to the user than the intended target.
In a Q&A interview with Computerworld, Wilson disputes those claims, and said he's seen evidence that the entities claiming failures did not build the guns to specifications. He also explained why he created the Liberator 3D printed gun in the first place - and it has little to do specifically with the Second Amendment.
Do you feel like many of these tests are rigged or that these testing entities are not following the same processes that you did in creating the gun? They didn't build it according to the way we built it, and then they'd report it as: "We built it and it blew up." It just wasn't accurate. I think it's because there's a rush to get a story, there's a rush to do the work.
Our ATF did it...and at least they showed that [using ABS thermoplastic], if you build it to our specs, you can fire eight to 10 rounds off of one Liberator build. Now, does it work with other materials and other printers? No. There's a range of things it clearly would not work with. There are tons of different ways you can build them to blow up, but the way we put up on the Internet and suggested you build it, has never once catastrophically failed.
The 3D printable components of The Liberator handgun (Source: Defense Distributed)
Have you partnered with gun rights groups like the NRA? No. The NRA doesn't like what we're doing. It's like they have no public statement even to this day even admitting we exist. There are some gun rights groups that you could call fellow travellers and we have a friendly relationship with. We haven't capitalized on the relationship.
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