“How’s that national conversation going?” sneers Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to making it easy for anyone to 3-D print their own gun. It’s the opening line of a video showcasing Defense Distributed’s successful employment of a 3-D printer to manufacture a plastic high-capacity ammo clip for an AR-15 rifle.
Wilson is namechecking Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s call for a “new conversation” on gun control in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. Wilson follows up his question by firing off a few rounds of ammunition, giving his handiwork an admiring look, and declaring: “Welcome to the age of the printed magazine.” The screen flashes a message: “Download your mag today.”
The 51-second video closes with Wilson eating a meal. An off-camera voice asks him: “So how does it taste?” His answer: “Tastes like Dianne Feinstein’s lunch.” It’s another anti-gun control broadside, a slam against the Democratic senator who plans to introduce legislation that would reinstate the ban on selling high-capacity ammunition magazines that existed from 1994 to 2004.
Wilson’s message could not be more blatant. In the age of cheap 3-D printers and open-source, easily downloadable design code, he is declaring that gun control is obsolete. So don’t even bother trying.
After four high-profile mass murders involving guns over the last two years, gun control is once again a hot political issue in the United States. President Obama has made it clear that he will push for significant new gun control measures. But not only is it doubtful that Obama’s new push will successfully move legislation out of Congress, but the entire question of how to achieve effective gun control has been complicated by the onrushing era of ubiquitous do-it-yourself 3-D printing technology. Gun rights activists like Wilson are arguing that even the toughest new laws will be toothless.
And they may be right, if the history of computer technology is any guide. When music became software in the 1990s, the jig was up for the music business as we had known it. Now thingsare becoming software — and what that means for the future is anyone’s guess.