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Although his web site’s manifesto is full of quotes explicitly about weapons, he talks readily about inspiration from Michel Foucault and Alain Badiou and says that his project is really about the “liberation of information” from what “I perceive as reactionary institutional regimes." While amused by Rep. Israel, he points out the only real problems his project have faced have come not from the public sector, but the private, like Indiegogo and Stratasys.
Anything about guns can always be counted on to excite at least a dedicated minority, and guns continue to make news on both the personal and policy level. Just yesterday, a man in Oregon made national news by using a gun to kill two people and himself at a mall. The same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit decided that Second Amendment rights applied outside the home as well as in it. Despite the occasional bursts of limited mania such stories elicit—and that the 3D printing of guns story has elicited—for the most part Americans seem to have come to peace with the fact that guns exist, lots of people have them, and the law can’t stop that—and doesn’t need to.
The 3D gun printing story is a characteristic postmodern brouhaha, with everyone correct from their perspective. Rep. Israel is correct that home 3D printing endangers the regime of control he represents and serves. The hearty old school Maker is right that 3D printing is a change in convenience, not in kind; that people always had both the means and to some degree the legal right to arm themselves with homemade weapons. Wilson in a video on the Wiki Weapons site offered the metaphor of the printing press; it’s apt. People could always write things down, and the printing press just made it easier. Some kinds of easier, though, deposit you in a new world entirely, even if someone who customarily uses CNC routers to make things in their warehouse might think it’s no big deal.
That said, those cynical about triumphalist Maker ideology are correct that industrial civilization already supplies us with plentiful and affordable guns even before we all became decentralized information age self-driven manufacturing plants, or whatever the latest 3D printing rhetoric claims, and such regular products are still more affordable than current 3D printer tech, which might never be able to build a completely usable gun.
Wilson may be doing something others have done, but he seems to realize technologies need their ideological snake oil salesmen, playing his game of media, style, and self-consciously dangerous ideas. He sees himself and his team as beyond politics, merely “children of the ‘Net” dramatizing the fact that information wanting to be free now has physical implications that can’t be denied or stopped. He promises new 3D printing approaches to making lower receivers for weapons will be coming from Wiki Weapons within the week.
Lawmakers such as Israel will keep fighting rearguard actions based on fear of the alarming but unstoppable changes wrought by this new technology. With 3D printing, ideas are manifest in the material world with unprecedented ease. Thus, the idea of keeping guns out of anyone’s hands is becoming an immaterial phantasm.