Free Minds & Free Markets

Cody Wilson: Happiness is a 3-D Printed Gun

"Legal encapsulation is not effectively possible," declares Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed, makers of the world's first gun made via 3D printing technology. "So it's fun to kind of challenge the state to greater and greater levels of its own hyper-statism."

Last year, Wilson and crew unveiled The Liberator, a plastic pistol they created on a 3D printer that fired a shot heard around the world. Then they put the 3D-printing files (or CADs) up on the Internet for free. To folks interested in cutting-edge technology and decentralized experiments in living, Wilson's gun symbolized an age of uncontrollable freedom. To lawmakers, it symbolized a threat that moved faster than, well, a speeding bullet. The State Department, in fact, shut down Defense Distributed's ability to disseminate the gun files on the Internet, claiming the nonprofit was violating federal rules about exporting munitions.

A self-declared crypto-anarchist, the 26-year-old Wilson is fighting the situation in court—and relishing every minute of his battle with the government.

While he's aggressively challenging restrictions on 3D-printed guns, Wilson is also working on an innovative Bitcoin project called Dark Wallet, which would further anonymize financial transactions on the Web, and a book intended to inspire a new generation of digital libertarians.

Reason TV's Todd Krainin sat down with Wilson at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

About 28 minutes.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Paul Detrick and Alexis Garcia.

Among the topics covered (with approximate time):

  • How the State Department is shutting down Wilson's 3-D printable gun business (3:58)
  • What it's like to be surveilled by the Department of Homeland Security (8:50)
  • What is the Liberator 3-D printed gun? (11:00)
  • How printable guns will change the dynamic of political power. (14:30)
  • Will this challenge to the state lead to more personal freedom? (16:15)
  • How does the Internet break down the politics of gun control? (17:35)
  • What is Dark Wallet? And what's wrong with Bitcoin? (19:30)
  • What's Wilson's new book about? (25:25)

Read Brian Doherty's profile of Wilson and Defense Distributed from the December 2013 issue of Reason.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new material goes live.

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  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I'm afraid I'll be suspended from work/school/public just because I looked at that picture.

  • Suki||

    Time to fire up the replicator!

  • Francisco d'Anconia||


    Happiness is a WARM 3-D Printed Gun

  • From the Tundra||

    (Bang, bang. Shoot, shoot.)

  • UnCivilServant||

    Happiness is a WARM 3-D Printed Gun

    Isn't that a puddle of melted plastic?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Cody looks like Justin Timberlake in that picture and should therefore consider suicide.

  • ||

    fapafpafpapfpafpapafpap, gun nuts.

  • paranoid android||

    If you're feeling left out, I'm sure there will be a video of some cops beating up unarmed civilians posted at some point today for you to get your rocks off to.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Grossly OT - I gave a lecture on basic economics to the local newspaper commentariat. The collection of brain donors gave some stunningly stupid retorts

    elmer says:
    April 18, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    UCS you write as if the value of an hour of unskilled labor was a known immutable fact, which of course is nonsense. Who’s to say it isn’t $15?

    I fear I wasted the effort of explaining that if unskilled labor had a marginal hourly value of $15 and businesses could buy it for under $8, they'd be on a hiring binge. But I'm pretty sure these people have no concept of supply and demand, or any economic principles.

  • sarcasmic||

    I wrote a letter to the local paper fairly recently on minimum wage. I tried to keep it simple. Started by saying that when the cost of something goes up, people adapt by buying less and/or finding substitutes. I gave some examples, like when the price of heating oil goes up people get programmable thermostats or pellet stoves. Or when the price of gas goes up people drive less or get a vehicle with better fuel economy. I then applied that same principle to unskilled labor. That when the mandated price of it goes up (minimum wage), employers will hire fewer people and/or automate, hurting the very people it is intended to help.

    The comments were too fucking stupid to be worthy of a response.

  • american socialist||

    is it fucking stupid to state position paper libertarian policies to complicated real life situations and to employ strained and ridiculous analogies in service of those policies?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    People like that don't understand the distinction between good intentions and good outcomes, and you're wasting your time trying to get them to understand that outlawing a range of voluntary contracts will only increase unemployment among the young and uneducated.

    They're just looking for an excuse to look down their nose at you, which has always been the soul of politics.


    A lot of digital-ink has been spilled over Cody and his project - but significantly less on the whole Ares Armor drama over 'unfinished receiver components'. (although thanks to Reason for covering it)

    I think equal attention should be paid to both stories - or at least both be mentioned in this context.

    I say this because the Ares story is actually about a far more practical and already-legally-protected means by which citizens can maintain their 2nd amendment rights within the increasing restrictions imposed across different regions. I think Cody's shtick is noble on a conceptual level, but as noted by some people in the past = how many people actually own 3d printers - and intend to use them this way? And are these firearms the slightest bit practical? I know there are implications for future developments and expanding the notions of what people have the power to do within their own means, but as a more-practical case of 'dismantling the nanny-state that undermines the 2nd amendment', I think the Ares issue has more immediate relevance.

    in any case, I hope there is follow up on the Ares story here as well.

  • Brian||

    Socialists seek a system with social ownership of the means of production. Therefore, individuals will be banned from owning 3D printers.

  • Harvard||

    Fire up the jackhammers and immediately carve the images of Wilson and Snowden on Mt. Rushmore.

  • Combat Missionary||

    People have always been able to make improvised firearms. Just google the term "zip gun" and you'll see.

    That said, Defense Distributed is finally making lawmakers nervous enough to admit that guns can't really be effectively regulated.

  • Kevin M. Gallagher||

    Please let there be a transcript of this video. Please.

  • GamerFromJump||

    TV writers are already starting to demonize the Liberator. In S02E01 of Elementary, the killer of the week killed his wife (and dissolved the gun pieces in acetone) and tried to kill someone else with another.

    It's sort of the same way writers also stealth-demonize "untraceable burn phones" (read: a Treacfone).


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