|3D Printed Gun Frame|
Last week I wrote an article about how Defense Distributed, a new company that planned to help average people create firearms at home with 3D printers had their equipment seized by the manufacturer. When story of the repossession hit the news, there was a great deal of confusion surrounding the legality of Defense Distributed’s Plans and the grounds by which Stratasys, the manufacturer was able to go back on their contract and snatch back the printer.
Upon further investigation it seems that Stratasys actually has no problem with their printers being used to print firearms…well that is as long as you have jumped through all of the correct bureaucratic hoops. Stratasys is actually currently in talks with the Knight’s Armament Company, the makers of the Remington brand and the country’s largest producer of shotguns and rifles.
A presentation by the company’s Direct Digital Manufacturing Group in January 2010 also expressed that the company’s main “selling focus will be to the Aerospace and Defense Markets,” and discussed building closer ties to the military and defense industry at various Defense Department, Army and Navy expos, including an “unmanned vehicle conference.”
Yet despite their apparent interest in firearms Stratasys has released a statement condemning Defense Distributed. Their Statement claims that:
”We believe Mr. Wilson intended to use Stratasys property to produce a weapon that is illegal according to the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (a.k.a. ‘The Plastic Guns’ Law) which prohibits the manufacturing or possession of a gun undetectable by airport metal detectors.” The statement added, “Additionally, Mr. Wilson failed to respond to the company’s request that he provide a copy of his firearms manufacturers and distributors license.”
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According to Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson he checked with the local ATF office and they told him that he didnt even need a licence, but he is going through the process anyway just as a precautionary measure for when he starts the project back up. Also, the concern about plastic pistols at airports is irrelevent considering firearms make it past TSA agents on a regular basis, it has even been reported that at just one airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, 23 guns made it by security this year alone.
If Stratasys has no problem with corporations and the military industrial complex using their technology to create weapons then why has there been such a swift and severe reaction when Wikiweapon plans to put this power into the hands of average citizens? The most likely answer to that question is that they are attempting to avoid the oncoming legal battle that will over the regulatory framework that will be applied to this technology. What this regulatory framework will look like is pretty obvious, based on Stratasys actions thus far, and the regulations that already exist in the market.
Contrary to popular belief, regulations are a tool by which connected corporations are able to influence government in order to get an edge on the underdog competition that is giving them a run for their money. Looking at this developing situation, it is easy to see how regulations favor companies like the Knight’s Armament Company, who would likely go out of business if their customers had the ability to print their own weapons from home. This preferential treatment comes at the expense of the average consumer and society as a whole, because it actually stifles innovation and keeps prices high.
What we are seeing here is a traditional case of the candlemaker trying to prevent the discovery of electric light. It may be true that gun control laws add whole other layer of complexity to this issue, but at its heart, this controversy is about a technology that has the ability to shake up the status quo and this battle surrounding the regulation of 3D printing will without a doubt be fought in every single industry that is effected by this invention.
If given the ability to flourish and develop in every way possible, the millions of people who end up using this technology will be able to create amazing things that could reshape this world for the better in a short amount of time. However, as always the one thing that stands in the way of this achievement is the monopolists of the state, and their violently imposed restrictions on freely interacting individuals.
Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson is a truly inspiring individual, and he knows exactly what is going on. This week he told Wired that “Stratasys made a choice, didn’t they? They chose a side in the democratization of manufacturing by this little decision.” Despite this upsetting decision Cody is not giving up, he plans to carry on this project regardless of how difficult it becomes for him.
J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance and host of a show called Voluntary Hippie Radio. He is also an artist with an established record label and event promotion company that hosts politically charged electronic dance music events. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com.