Fox Business' Lou Dobbs hosted Cody Wilson -- a self-described anarchist who was named one of Wired's top 15 Most Dangerous People In The World -- to promote his 3D-printed gun, which has come under intense scrutiny.
On March 5, Forbes reported that Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas, became the first person to fire a real bullet from a plastic gun made with a 3D-printer. The gun, named the “Liberator,” is made almost entirely of plastic, with the exception of a single nail used as the firing pin and a six-ounce piece of steel to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act, which makes it illegal to manufacture or possess any firearm that is not detectable by a walk-through metal detector. However, this six-ounce piece of steel is non-essential to the functionality of the plastic firearm; the gun would be just as effective without it.
During a May 7 interview with Wilson, Dobbs gushed over the prospect of more of these guns, saying that they could potentially allow “every human being on the planet to go to a printer and come back and be an armed citizen or revolutionary, depending on your perspective.”
Later in the segment, Wilson said he is “sympathetic with the traditional school of anarchist thought,” to which Dobbs replied: “In that view, which is to assert really individual freedom ... it's not entirely, well, dissident with American exaltation of self-reliance and independence.”
The weapon, which Wilson calls the “Liberator,” is being both hailed and denounced as a major blow to gun control. Wilson's nonprofit, Defense Distributed, has already put the design plans for the gun online for anyone to download. That means people could start printing out working firearms in their living rooms today. Of even greater concern to lawmakers, criminals could theoretically thwart security measures by carrying the all-plastic guns into secure buildings without setting off metal detectors.
In reality, though, we aren't quite there yet. For one thing, this fully 3-D printed gun isn't fully fully 3-D printed, Wilson explained to me in a phone interview. Because federal law bans firearms that aren't detectable by metal detectors, Wilson added a six-ounce, non-functional metal component to his version. Of course, anyone 3-D printing the gun at home could skip that step. But again, that would be against the law. And there's one other part that actually can't yet be 3-D printed: the firing pin. “We tried a lot of plastic pins,” Wilson said. “They were a little too soft,” so they deformed when they hit the primer.
New York Congressman Steve Israel has announced legislation to renew a ban on plastic guns. New York Senator Charles Schumer has called for legislation that would ban 3D-printed guns that fire real bullets, noting that this technology makes it possible for anyone to “essentially open a gun factory in their garage.”
Even Wilson has acknowledged the dangers of his project. In an interview with Forbes, Wilson said, “You can print a lethal device ... It's kind of scary, but that's what we're aiming to show.”
These potential consequences seemed lost on Dobbs, who praised the invention as “amazing” and asked Wilson to direct viewers on where they could go to download the design plans for the gun. Dobbs also said that he would post a link to the plans on his own website.
It should be noted that Wilson's manufacturing of the firearm was done legally. According to The New Yorker, he has received a federal firearms license, and has been in contact with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to ensure compliance.