Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

A MakerBot Industries 3-D printer is on display during the 2014 CES in Las Vegas. A 3-D printer can create a physical object out of a computer model. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg) During the summer of 2012, Cody Wilson hung around J&J, a car-repair shop run by two “goofy” guys in their late 20s. The Austin warehouse was crowded with engine blocks, car parts and Pelican boxes that never seemed to have been opened, but the 24-year-old came as he pleased, with access to shop machinery. He had spent the larger part of his second year at the University of Texas Law School learning how to operate a 3-D printer. Familiar with the robust gun culture of the South from his Boy Scout years in Arkansas, he soon began to wonder whether he could create the first fully 3-D-printed, functional firearm. Wilson was not confident it was feasible. The technology was new, and printable materials were brittle and plastic. But Wilson was motivated by curiosity, hypothesizing that he could design a printable weapon and build a platform for users to download gun blueprints without government regulation. “Even I was glamoured by the magic of 3-D printing,” he said, recalling when he removed the first functional plastic piece from the printer. “It had an unusual polymer, fleshy feel and a silicate structure about it that had to be washed off. All the trappings of some kind of alien birth.” Wilson admired the object. The screw, buffer tower, the grip space. They […]

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