3D-Printed Guns Get A Shot In The Arm

By on July 23, 2018

July 23, 2018

The U.S. government has settled a case brought by Cody Wilson, a law school student who sued after being forced to take down internet instructions on how to 3D-print a gun. Under the terms of the settlement, Wilson is now free to post the instructions and the government will pay $40,000 of his legal expenses, according to an article in the New York Times, which obtained a copy of the settlement agreement from Wilson. The willingness of the government to settle the case has alarmed gun control advocates and caused some suspicion that the Trump administration influenced the decision to settle, according to the Times, and critics are attempting to obtain documents that might clarify that question. The matter goes back to 2013, when Wilson successfully printed a “mostly plastic handgun” and then posted online blueprints. They were downloaded more than 100,000 times in a few days before the State Department demanded he take them down, claiming they violated export restrictions. Wilson at the time was a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, and a recent profile in the Texas Observer depicts him as a bit of an oddball who has adopted Austin as his home and attached himself to a website called Brave New Books, formerly an Austin bookstore. Brave New Books is known for its partiality to conspiracy theories, and has a “special relationship” to the noted theorist Alex Jones, according to the Observer. How much difference will this settlement make in terms of increasing the availability of firearms in the U.S.? It depends on who you ask, but when it comes to 3D gun printing, many people have the wrong idea, according to an article on the website 3DPrinting.com. “While 3D printing technology is certainly sophisticated, the full capabilities of 3D printing are often wildly misrepresented,” according to the author. Most 3D printers, he writes, layer down an artifact out of one or another kind of thermoplastic, each of which has its limitations, and while there are also 3D printers that work in metal, they are very expensive and it would be easier and a lot cheaper to buy a gun on the street. That’s not necessarily true, however, if you happen to be a felon or someone otherwise restricted from gun purchase, as one of the many comments to this article points out, and 3D printing continues to get cheaper and more sophisticated.

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