Why The 3D Printed Gun Controversy Really Isn’t One

3D printed guns

Cody Wilson, The founder of Defense Distributed, has found himself in hot water yet again. After he determined a court order only prevented him from distributing blueprints for 3D printed guns for free, he’s found a loophole.

He’s selling them.

The 3D Printed Gun Controversy

By now, you’ve heard the story. A guy created blueprints for 3D printing firearms, put them online, and thus began a years-long struggle with the federal government; a case he essentially won for all intents and purposes. However, a recent court order sought to prevent him from continuing his business. Thanks to a perceived loophole, it hasn’t. See, the court order has been interpreted by Wilson as only preventing him from distributing these blueprints for free.

So now he’s selling them.

“Anyone who wants these files is going to get them. I’m gonna sell it to them, I’m gonna ship them. That began this morning,” Wilson said. “That will never be interrupted. The free exchange of these ideas will never be interrupted.” – CNN

Is It Illegal To Build A Gun?

Believe it or not, it is and pretty much always has been legal to create your own gun. It is, however, illegal to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution; however, that’s not what Cody Wilson or Defense Distributed are doing. They’re merely posting/selling the blueprints for that gun.

In order to serve food to the public, a restaurant needs a whole host of permits, licenses, insurance, etc. But any idiot with a laptop can post recipes online.

The whole 3D printed gun controversy has drawn attention from all sides of the political spectrum. Anti-gun activists and politicians believe that 3D printed guns are dangerous, unnecessary, and will only lead to more gun violence in America.

Pro-gun activists look at the issue as merely a modern extension of the 2nd amendment.

So who’s right?

The answer: It really doesn’t matter.

The Controversy That Isn’t One

I get why people would think that 3D printed guns are dangerous, why they should be banned, or why Cody Wilson should go to jail. I also understand why the pro-gun lobby looks at this as just another way of expressing Constitutional rights.

What I don’t get is just how, in 2018, no one involved in the 3d printed gun controversy seems to understand how the internet works. Here are some facts:

  1. Defense Distributed has been releasing blueprints to the internet since 2013.
  2. The blueprints have been downloaded and shared thousands of times.
  3. There is nothing to stop another company or individual from creating and releasing blueprints at any time.
  4. You don’t take things off the internet.
  5. Ever.

I’m being snarky, but the reality is this: you don’t take things off the internet once they’re there. Sure, you can try. After all, the federal government TRIES to keep all of those things off the internet but the truth is they can’t. And it’s much, much, much easier to distribute a tiny blueprint file online than it is a movie.

In short, the technology is here to stay. And there’s really not a damn thing anyone can do about it. They can throw Cody Wilson in jail and make him a martyr to the pro-gun lobby. The government can shut down Defense Distributed so they can no longer release their blueprints. You can try to scrub the existing blueprints from the internet.

The first two you can accomplish. The last one, you can’t.

The Technology Is Here To Stay

As a result of the rapid pace of technology, legislators simply can’t keep up. This is true of several areas of society that technology has touched; which is pretty much all of them. In this case, as in many others, there’s not a whole lot they can do.

Let me just say that I understand why this issue doesn’t sit well with some people. I understand why some would want to eliminate these guns from existence. Yes, I even understand that there is a good chance that a 3D printed gun will be used in a crime at some point.

I’m not saying that any of these are good things. I don’t own a gun, let alone a 3D printed one. What I am saying is that realistically speaking it doesn’t matter whether you or I like it. The plans exist. More will follow. They’re already on the internet. This is one genie that isn’t going back in the bottle.

Any serious discussion or debate among lawmakers must acknowledge the above paragraph as fact and not only as it pertains to guns. Music, movies, art, healthcare, education, and several other areas are being impacted by technology far more quickly than our legislators can wrap their heads around them.

Whatever the “answer” for any of these situations is, it isn’t in trying to throw Cody Wilson in jail or shutting down Defense Distributed. That might “feel good” to some people but it hardly accomplishes anyone’s goals. Going after Napster back in 2000 did not stop music and movies from being shared over the internet. It continues to this day.

i-Gun? Gunnify? Gundora?

3D printed guns may follow a similar pattern. Perhaps gun manufacturers will get in on the game and start releasing their own blueprints for sale much the same way going after Napster helped to create the era of commercialized, downloadable and streaming music. Once Apple realized there was money to be made here: Hello iTunes. Spotify, Pandora, etc followed.

Defense Distributed may go the way of Napster. After all, it’s incumbent upon our elected officials to at least pretend like they did something. In Napster’s case, Sean Parker became a billionaire so that’s good news for Cody Wilson. Lacking the ability to do anything, it’s far more likely we’ll see a commercialized version of gun blueprints in the not too distant future.

If the technology isn’t going anywhere, someone may as well make a buck.

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