Cody Wilson, the Arkansas-born techno-anarchist who distributed digital instructions to “print” handguns on 3-D printers, has apparently won a landmark legal challenge against the U.S. Justice Department, Wired reports.
He may have also unlocked a new era of digital DIY gunmaking that further undermines gun control across the United States and the world—another step toward Wilson’s imagined future where anyone can make a deadly weapon at home with no government oversight.
Two months ago, the Department of Justice quietly offered Wilson a settlement to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs have pursued since 2015 against the United States government. Wilson and his team of lawyers focused their legal argument on a free speech claim: They pointed out that by forbidding Wilson from posting his 3-D-printable data, the State Department was not only violating his right to bear arms but his right to freely share information. By blurring the line between a gun and a digital file, Wilson had also successfully blurred the lines between the Second Amendment and the First.
“If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident,” Wilson explained to WIRED when he first launched the lawsuit in 2015. “So what if this code is a gun?”
The former UCA student was featured in a Times cover story in 2014 and drawn subsequent mentions since.
Now Wilson is making up for lost time. Later this month, he and the nonprofit he founded, Defense Distributed, are relaunching their website Defcad.com as a repository of firearm blueprints they’ve been privately creating and collecting, from the original one-shot 3-D-printable pistol he fired in 2013 to AR-15 frames and more exotic DIY semi-automatic weapons. The relaunched site will be open to user contributions, too; Wilson hopes it will soon serve as a searchable, user-generated database of practically any firearm imaginable.
All of that will be available to anyone anywhere in the world with an uncensored internet connection, to download, alter, remix, and fabricate into lethal weapons with tools like 3-D printers and computer-controlled milling machines. “We’re doing the encyclopedic work of collecting this data and putting it into the commons,” Wilson says. “What’s about to happen is a Cambrian explosion of the digital content related to firearms.” He intends that database, and the inexorable evolution of homemade weapons it helps make possible, to serve as a kind of bulwark against all future gun control, demonstrating its futility by making access to weapons as ubiquitous as the internet.
Gun control advocates are alarmed.
“This should alarm everyone,” says Po Murray, chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance, a Connecticut-focused gun control group created in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013. “We’re passing laws in Connecticut and other states to make sure these weapons of war aren’t getting into the hands of dangerous people. They’re working in the opposite direction.”
When reporters and critics have repeatedly pointed out those potential consequences of Wilson’s work over the last five years, he has argued that he’s not seeking to arm criminals or the insane or to cause the deaths of innocents. But nor is he moved enough by those possibilities to give up what he hopes could be, in a new era of digital fabrication, the winning move in the battle over access to guns.
With his new legal victory and the Pandora’s box of DIY weapons it opens, Wilson says he’s finally fulfilling that mission. “All this Parkland stuff, the students, all these dreams of ‘common sense gun reforms’? No. The internet will serve guns, the gun is downloadable.” Wilson says now. “No amount of petitions or die-ins or anything else can change that.”