You can legally download 3D-printed gun designs starting August 1

The Department of Justice has reached a settlement with Defense Distributed in a landmark decision that will enable the controversial organization to publish CAD files of firearms on its DEFCAD website.


The State Department has reached a settlement with Defense Distributed, which publishes downloadable schematics for 3D-printed guns, in a landmark decision that will enable the controversial organization to publish CAD files of firearms on its DEFCAD website.

Starting August 1, anyone in the world with a 3D printer, some raw materials and an open internet connection will be able to produce their own gun, including classic firearms like the AR-10 and Beretta M9, as well as the Liberator, the world’s first 3D-printed gun.

The Ghost Gunner, Defense Distributed’s PC-connected milling machine manufactured that can carve holes in unfinished gun parts, will also become legal on August 1.

Defense Distributed was co-founded in 2012 by Cody Wilson, then a law student at the University of Texas and a self-described crypto-anarchist who’s since helped develop other controversial projects, like Hatreon, a crowdfunding site devoid of hate speech laws, as well as nominating himself to the Bitcoin Foundation for “the sole purpose of destroying the Foundation.”

In 2013, Defense Distributed made headlines after manufacturing and demonstrating the Liberator, a 3D-printed handgun whose parts are plastic save for one metal component, and the bullet.

“You can print a lethal device. It’s kind of scary, but that’s what we’re aiming to show,” Wilson told Forbes’ Andy Greenberg in 2012. “Anywhere there’s a computer and an Internet connection, there would be the promise of a gun.”

Almost immediately after the first shot was fired, the government moved to stop Defense Distributed, arguing that the organization had violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which restricts the export of military-related weapons.


But attorneys for Defense Distributed successfully argued that the State Department’s actions violated their clients’ First and Second Amendment rights. The lawyers, bolstered by past legal precedent that ruled legal the online exchange of encryption techniques, argued that gun schematics are code, and code is speech. Therefore, the publishing of gun schematics is protected by the First and Second Amendments.

The Liberator and other 3D-printed guns might be operational, but they’re not as reliable or well-made as traditional metal guns. As Lewis Page wrote for The Register, the Liberator “isn't any more a gun than any other very short piece of plastic pipe is a “gun.”” It is, however, much harder to trace.

In any case, the decision highlights how evolving technology will make it increasingly difficult to regulate and track guns, and it also hints at other precarious legal questions about code and speech that have yet to emerge.

The 4 types of thinking talents: Analytic, procedural, relational and innovative

Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
  • Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Jordan Peterson on Joe Rogan: The gender paradox and the importance of competition

The Canadian professor has been on the Joe Rogan Experience six times. There's a lot of material to discuss.

Personal Growth
  • Jordan Peterson has constantly been in the headlines for his ideas on gender over the last three years.
  • While on Joe Rogan's podcast, he explains his thoughts on the gender differences in society.
  • On another episode, Peterson discusses the development of character through competition.
Keep reading Show less

Horseshoe crabs are drained for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

Credit: Business Insider (video)
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

Tech billionaires could end climate change. So why aren’t they?

David Wallace-Wells points out that the people who can save the world just aren't all that interested.

Videos
  • Saving the world from the apocalyptic impact of climate change should be a dream for many Silicon Valley titans concerned about legacy, says David Wallace-Wells, and yet few are dedicating themselves to addressing the catastrophe.
  • Negative emissions technology funded by Bill Gates exists. It would cost $3 trillion per year to operate and would mean human industry could continue at current levels without global warming.
  • That figure sounds astronomical, however global subsidies to fossil fuel industries cost $5 trillion per year.
Keep reading Show less