An American bunch of pro-gun techies has spent the past couple months sinking time and money into a project to create a 'Wiki-weapon', a 3D printed gun that anyone can download and build for themselves. Up until now, they've been a bit of a joke, but their latest efforts seem to be bearing some fruit. And that scares me witless.
The group, called Defence Distributed, has been concentrating on designs for a high-capacity magazine for AR-series assault rifles, one of the more common weapons in America. Focussing on designing magazines rather than actual guns makes sense for Defence Distributed: not only are magazines more viable to be made from plastic than say, real guns, high-capacity magazines have also been banned in New York in the wake of the recent spate of shootings. Making and distributing plans for a 3D magazine, then, is an easy way for anti-gun-control activists to make a statement, 'keep their liberty', and stick it to the man.
They're being successful, too. Their latest magazine design -- the 'Cuomo Mag' -- seems to function perfectly correctly, as an AR magazine should.
While I admire the level of technical dedication and innovation Defence Distributed have put into the project, from a more practical standpoint, their actions are difficult to condone. Yes, today it's just magazines -- not a serious cause for concern here in the UK, since the weapons to use aforementioned magazines with are still extremely hard to come by. The worry lies a few years down the road, when 3D printing has advanced and 3D-printed weapons are feasible. Once that happens, projects like Defence Distributed will be making it exponentially easier for anyone who wants a firearm to get one.
This doesn't seem to be something that Defence Distributed has clearly thought through. In fact, in the interview above, Defence Distributed's founder says "I'm just resisting. What am I resisting? I don't know." The fact is, this is clearly a project born out of America's ongoing gun control debate; the problem is that Defence Distributed aren't just affecting everyone in the United States, but the rest of the world as well. Even Israel's felt the need to weigh in on the issue, with a typically Israeli statement: “Law enforcement officials should have the power to stop high-capacity magazines from proliferating with a Google search.”
Imagine, for a second, a United Kingdom where getting your hands on a firearm requires as much technical know-how and materials as a DIY project on a Saturday afternoon. A country where gun proliferation is even higher than it is in the United States. It would fundamentally change our culture; whether you think for better or for worse is a matter of opinion, but I don't think it's a question that we should let a bunch of American gun nuts answer for us. I don't know what the solution is -- and I doubt that there'll be an easy one -- but the issue of Wiki weapons is a serious one, and one that needs proper, reasoned and global debate, away from the fever-pitch hysterics of the American pro-gun lobby.