Legal setback to 3D printed gun project

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A bizarre project to create a 3D-printable handgun has hit the buffers after the manufacturer of the rented printer concerned seized it back.

The aim of the Wiki Weapon project is to create a gun that anybody could print at home, without the inconvenience of having to demonstrate they're legally entitled to own one.

Cody Wilson, the law student director of the project, says he aims not only to build a pistol but to provide a platform hosting blueprints online, so that anybody can do the same.

"You Can’t Stop What’s Coming," promises the group, sweetly.

But for the time being, at least, it seems you can. Printer manufacturer  Stratasys has, a little belatedly perhaps, concluded that the project team is violating federal firearms laws.

"You have... made it clear that you do not have a federal firearms manufacturers license," the company's legal counsel wrote. "Based upon your lack of a license and your public statements regarding your intentions in using our printer, Stratasys disagrees with your opinion."

Defense Distributed, the group behind the project, leased the printer earlier this year after raising $20,000 in funding online. But the fundraising, too, was hampered after the Indiegogo crowdfunding site pulled the plug, again citing legal concerns.

Technically, it's not illegal to build your own firearm in the US, as long as it's one you're legally entitled to hold anyway. But there are several grey areas surrounding the law, including whether a fully-plastic gun would violate the Undetectable Firearms Act.

Wilson now hopes to find another company prepared to lease him a printer.

One problem is that any gun made from the plastic used by most 3D printers, ABS, couldn't stand up for long to the temperatures involved in firing it. The gun would disintegrate after firing just a round or two - quite likely in the shooter's hand.

Perhaps the whole project is secretly funded by anti-gun campaigners, after all?