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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

Bio

March 12, 2013 - 9:32 am

There are two basic ways to view government. One, it’s a collection and concentration of force and power for the purpose of providing safety and a basis of interaction and commerce for the peaceful, and a means of curtailing and penalizing the predatory. Two, it’s a protection racket designed to enable the wealthy and powerful to concentrate and maintain their power and wealth.

Both views are true, and often not in competition with each other. The latter view of government is embodied by the likes of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who uses government to busybody and ban everything he doesn’t like (while exempting major corporations from his bans when he can) and Austin city councilman Mike Martinez. Martinez is trying to crack down on an app, SideCar. SideCar lets people who need a ride connect with people who can give them a ride, across town, across the country, whatever. If I’m going somewhere and so are you, SideCar makes it easier to share the ride. Martinez wants to regulate Sidecar users, and he appeared on local radio KLBJ late last week to explain why: If one private citizen gives another private citizen a ride and any money changes hands, it may push wages for cab drivers downward. Cab companies got together and basically bought Martinez’s support one way or another, so he is lobbying on their behalf to crack down on an app, which is really a crackdown on one person’s ability to transact with another without government interfering. His lobbying created a stir ahead of the massive SXSW conference, during which Austin’s downtown traffic becomes a nightmare, and SideCar may serve as an open source relief valve.

What we may need against such government busybodying is a good, old-fashioned rebellion. Cody Wilson is stepping into that role.

Wilson, a University of Texas law student, is quickly becoming one of the most notorious people on the planet. He is the man behind Defense Distributed. That group is behind the recent push to print firearm parts via 3D printers. You’ve heard of Wikipedia and Wikileaks. Wilson’s big idea is the wikiweapon.

Wilson gave a talk at SXSW Monday afternoon. He cuts a contradictory figure, apologizing repeatedly for getting too technical while explaining Defense Distributed’s history, and the modeling and printing of working firearms components, but not apologizing at all for pushing a technology in directions that its inventors probably never intended.

He opens his talk with a joke — a picture of a garden gnome.

When 3D printing first emerged a few years back, the tech industry’s imagineers envisioned designers crafting a digital model of the mundane in one place and printing it out for prototyping and, eventually, a finished product either at their desk or at a printer on the other side of the world. Companies have started to move into this space as the price of 3D printers have come down, and the capabilities have leaped forward. Simple plastics are no longer the only medium in which 3D printers work. They can now print much stronger materials, including metals. One company at SXSW was showcasing a 3D printed bicycle.

Wilson, a staunch advocate of the Constitution and the inherent right to self-defense but not at all a fan of government, hatched the idea in 2012 to create a group that would distribute the task of printing gun parts. The actual task had been done before at least once, by a lone operator, in 2011. Wilson and his group fundraised $20,000 and sought to lease a printer from Stratasys. That company, according to Wilson, at first leased him a printer without issue. But before he had even signed the papers to start working with it, the company made two moves: They demanded the printer back, and they referred Wilson criminally to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “They sought to mortally wound me,” Wilson says, noting that criminal convictions can result in one losing their Second Amendment rights.

Wilson insists that he had broken no law and intended to break no law. He was not engaging in the unlicensed manufacture of firearms as the law understands it. He was printing shapes via the emerging technology of 3D printing.

So he sought advice from the ATF, which determined that he was not breaking the law. Stratasys’ referral against him went nowhere.

Stratasys isn’t the only enemy Wilson has made. Government, so far, has not been among those enemies, but gun makers have, he says the NRA is wary of him, and 3D model hosting sites have not been welcoming. Thingiverse pulled Defense Distributed’s files offline after Sandy Hook, despite the fact that those files did not violate the site’s terms of service. During his talk Monday, Wilson revealed his solution to the Thingiverse problem, DEFCAD. That site will host his group’s 3D models. Users will be able to download them and print them on their own machines. Wilson hopes that it becomes the Google of 3D gun printing.

Despite the setbacks and skirmishes, Wilson says the actual progress of printing 3D gun parts has moved forward swiftly. Last year they printed a lower receiver that broke during testing, sparking media stories that they were failing and 3D printed guns were not viable. This year, DD has printed parts that can withstand firing the NATO 5.56 round. 3D printing enables rapid prototyping, slashing the time from design to test and cutting the cost of development down to a pittance. This results in a cheaper product that, at this point, runs technologically miles ahead of any legislative effort to deal with it. It’s possible, for instance, to get around New York’s new magazine sales ban by printing a magazine. The material cost of a printed AR-15 magazine, once you get past the cost of the printer itself, is cheap: $15. Defense Distributed knows who its political enemies are: It has named printed parts after Sen. Dianne Feinstein and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to memorialize their so far futile efforts to ban firearms.

Monday’s highly controversial but sparsely attended session moved to Q&A, and it was toward the end that applause rang out for the first time. The typical SXSW Interactive attendee is a bundle of contradictions, a self-conscious non-conformist who conforms strictly to a leftist political point of view. That point of view empowers government over the individual. Wilson is no Republican or conservative, but he is no friend of anyone who wants to make government more powerful over him or anyone else. He describes Defense Distributed and the wikiweapon as “practical anarchy,” and he comes across as a deeply philosophical small-l libertarian. One audience member asked him, paraphrasing from memory, “How does it feel to be the only actual rebel at a conference that is supposed to be full of rebels who all think the same way?” Wilson’s audience cheered the question.

The question now is, where is all this going? Wilson unapologetically says “I am not going to stop.” He means it. He sees the wikiweapon as expressions of both free speech and the right to bear arms. His group has freed the genie and pushed weapon manufacturing well outside current law’s ability to regulate it.

But politics is full of people like Michael Bloomberg and Mike Martinez. Busybody ban kings find a way. They always do, even though technology will always run ahead of them. Gun manufacturers, ironically, may end up siding with bans to protect their own livelihoods against a threatening new technology. The protection racket function of government is powerful, and in an age of concentration of power in the national and state capitals, it is only getting stronger.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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All Comments   (12)
All Comments   (12)
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Remember "Zip Guns"?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Is Mike Martinez outing himself as a retard who did NOT attend UTA? There's been a wall of stranger rides up in the Union since at least the sixties. The app is just an electronic version of " gas, grass or ass." Who, in their right mind, insists that only cab drivers can ferry strangers?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually, notwithstanding a bazillion bumperstickers in the '70s, "gas, grass, or ass, nobody rides free" was and remains illegal most places. The key is requiring, and in some instances merely accepting, something of value in exchange for transportation. If I say to a stranger, "you can ride with me to Podunk" that is perfectly legal. If I say, "you can ride to Podunk with me for $50," I'm in violation of the laws of lots of places. With boats it is requiring any consideration that invokes the requirment of a license. If I took six friends fishing and asked nothing of them, it was perfectly legal. I was probably OK if without my asking somebody brought some booze to share with me and the rest of the party. But if I said to them, "I'll take you out if you buy the gas," that required a license and all the stuff that goes with being a licensed mariner hauling passengers for hire, and asking for grass or ass counts too. When I went out strictly for pleasure, I never took my license with me and, as much as sometimes I wanted to, I never took money people offered for gas. I would cheerfully drink their booze though, and we just won't talk about other things.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Be interesting what this kind of collaborative effort could come up with if the participants decided to design a firearm from scratch with the specific intent of making it 3D print friendly as part of the manufacturing process from the get go.

Kind of like a "people's rifle", that the ordinary everyman could acquire.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"... I “made” my own AR-15 lower receiver using a curiously shaped paperweight and a helpful CNC operator ... It is possible to buy the unfinished lower receiver over the internet, ... The interesting thing is that ... the machinery I bought fits reasonably well in a car, so the whole shebang is mobile. For less than the cost of the receiver blank, the jig and the tools, I can come to someone’s house and give them the opportunity to make their own AR-15 lower receiver."

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=47921

Outlaw Gunsmith
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The STL files for the AR-10 lower receiver are here [http://grabcad.com/library/ar10-lower-reciever/files/AR10_Lower_Receiver.stl]. I don't know how accurate they are, but they certainly look correct. And they have the files for MAC-10 receiver, and AR-15 as well (although some of the comments indicate the AR-15 receiver isn't really ready for production). I certainly would not recommend building any of these in plastic, however.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In one sense, this isn't really all that new: CNC vertical mills have been around for a while to machine parts out of steel or aluminum. The difference is that this new technology involves printers that cost less than $2000, while most serious CNC vertical mills were five figures new. (Yes, there's one used Bridgeport CNC mill on eBay at the moment that is $1025.) As near as I can tell, the STL files that let you print in ABS plastic will also work to machine out of steel.

What I am looking forward to, because it will cause gun control madness, will be when the STL files for the MAC-10 submachine gun or M3A1 submachine gun show up in the public domain.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I see a bull market in early model Mini-14s that are easily converted to fully automatic if you have the tools and skill. Sure wish I hadn't lost mine.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What about a ceramic poison flechette thrower? That'd be fun, not at all noisy and might start a trend.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
re: syberbpunk
HEAP (Holocaust Education and Avoidance Pod).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Print all the guns you want, they are regulating the bullets: the size of magazines, no lead bullet (California), Homeland took away billion rounds off the market,...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've read up on some of this work and it sounds like part of the plot of "Cryptonomicon". Part of the plot includes a Jewish character who looks to use the Internet startup he founds to develop a "pod" that would contain information and plans to wage an insurgency. All of this info would be set up in a data haven. The idea would be any oppressed people could get the information and form a resistance movement (including weapons) to stop genocide.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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