Gun firing. Source: csabacz/
Gun firing. Source: csabacz/

Defense Distributed is an organization that has designed a firearm, the Liberator, which can be downloaded from the internet and printed with a 3D printer. The organization’s goal is to freely publish firearms so that anyone with a 3D printer can create a firearm. The purpose is “to defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution…” (Defense Distributed).

Homeland Security Response and Memo to the 3D Printed Gun

Defense Distributed raised over $20,000 and had their first 3D printer confiscated by Stratasys, the maker of the 3D printer. However, they accepted the donation of Bitcoins. After printing a fully functional gun, on May 9th, 2013, the United States Department of State requested the Defense Distributed remove downloadable links while they investigated the possible violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations in which Defense Distributed complied willingly. However, over 100,000 downloads of “the Liberator” have already occurred and Homeland Security has issued a warning that these 3D printable guns may not be detectable by magnetometers, creating public safety risks and may necessitate pat-downs at airports and public events.

Defense Distributed may also ease the access of guns by gun seekers without a background check and the possibility of creating a gun without serial numbers or unique identifiers, which would hinder ballistics tests. Homeland Security predicts that 3D printed guns may be as difficult to control as pirated music, movies, and software. (Fox News, 2013).

Cody Wilson stated that “I recognize this tool might be used to harm people. That’s what it is: it’s a gun. But I don’t think that a reason to not put it out there.” (Smith, 2013)