Mark McDaniel from Reason Magazine joins us to discuss homemade gun technology in response to a recent court case involving gun ownership activist, Cody Wilson, and his group, Defense Distributed, who were the minds behind the “Wiki Weapon Project”.
Cody Wilson and his group went unnoticed until they actually tried to build a weapon, specifically named the “Liberator”. However, when the printer company, Stratasys, heard of this plan they took his printer and reported Wilson’s intentions to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The press got wind of this dispute when Wilson posted a viral video of Stratasys taking the printer away. Later on, the State Department got involved when Wilson posted the blueprints of how to print the “Liberator”.
What kind of guns can be printed? What are the rules for making a traditional weapon at home? Why should we care if people can have 3D-printed guns so easily? How far away are we, technologically speaking, from creating legit firearms in our homes?
Trevor Burrus’ and Meggan Dewitt’s article about the amicus position the Cato Institute took on 3D printed guns.
Mark McDaniel on how to legally make your own 3D printed gun.
Andy Greenberg from Wired on how 3D guns are now deemed untraceable.
Andrea O’Sullivan from Reason explains how the computer code to make 3D printed guns is protected by the 1st Amendment.
00:05 Paul Matzko: Welcome to Building Tomorrow, a show that explores the ways tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship are creating a freer wealthier and more peaceful world. As always, I’m your host, Paul Matzko. And with me today in the studio are:
00:18 Aaron Ross Powell: Aaron Powell, editor of Libertarianism.org.
00:21 Matthew Feeney: And Matthew Feeney, the Director of Cato’s Project on Emerging Technologies.
00:26 Paul Matzko: And with us today, we have a special guest, Mark McDaniel. Mark, can you tell our listeners a little bit about what you do.
00:32 Mark McDaniel: Hi, thanks for having me. I’m Mark McDaniel, I’m a reporter and producer at reason.com. I have covered a couple of things for them. Anything from immigration to 3D printed guns, kind of where all of this stuff fits in the political landscape.
00:49 Matthew Feeney: And importantly, used to be at the Cato Institute.
00:51 Mark McDaniel: I did.
00:52 Aaron Ross Powell: You used to…
00:52 Matthew Feeney: Before we lost you.
00:53 Aaron Ross Powell: Produced Free Thoughts podcast.
00:55 Mark McDaniel: That’s right.
00:55 Paul Matzko: Oh, before you decamped for our cooler cousin at Reason. We don’t wear leather jackets like Nick.
01:01 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, I haven’t worn a tie.
01:05 Paul Matzko: So this week, we’re going to discuss, like Mark kinda teased, homemade gun technology. I would say 3D printed guns, but not all of them now are printed. We’ll talk about mill technology in a bit, here. But we are talking about this in light of a court case, or a court settlement involving gun ownership activist Cody Wilson and his company Defense Distributed. Now Mark, you made a mini-documentary using Wilson as a launching point to talk about printed guns. So maybe, why don’t you kick us off by talking a little bit about Wilson, a little bit about that documentary and what you discovered about this new technology.
01:42 Mark McDaniel: So the 3rd printed gun movement, it’s not necessarily a new thing. It’s been around for several years, the maker community. But Wilson kind of launched it into the mainstream by coming out with his, what they call the Wiki Weapon project. Him and a bunch of people gathered together in a loose collective. They weren’t a company or anything like that with the goal of actually building and putting out a functional, fully 3D printable gun. So, when they started the project there wasn’t a whole lot of press on it, they were trying to raise funds, was surprisingly unnoticed and it wasn’t until they actually started to try to build the weapon. They did a little bit of testing, they tried to get some 3D printers and the company Stratasys ended up coming in and pulling away the printer, just after they got it, because they got wind of what they were going to do, and then they reported them to the ATF.
02:56 Mark McDaniel: Wilson had immediately a lot of interest when the press picked this up and he filmed them removing the printer.
03:07 Paul Matzko: It was like the best thing that really happened to his…
03:09 Mark McDaniel: Yeah.
03:09 Paul Matzko: Yeah, it suddenly made him a national figure in really just a matter of a couple of days.
03:14 Aaron Ross Powell: What kind of gun was he gonna print? What are we talking about here?
03:18 Mark McDaniel: So the initial thought was to print, and their first design was called The Liberator. It was kind of based off the concept of a gun that was supposed to be built during World War II. So the idea was to manufacture a relatively small light weight, easy to manufacture gun that they could drop over Europe, that was basically just a single shot. And the thought was to scare the Axis powers with this. Anybody could have a concealed weapon on them, anybody could turn around and shoot somebody. So they, Wilson and Defense Distributed, kind of picked up on this and created what they called the Liberator, which was a single shot, fully 3D printable handgun. It had replaceable barrels, the frame of the gun itself was all polymer, the barrel was polymer, but the barrels couldn’t stand up to a whole lot of pressure, so their initial test run with it was replaceable barrels that shoots 380 caliber bullet, and…
04:33 Paul Matzko: Which is a pretty big bullet, I think.
04:35 Mark McDaniel: It’s a little wider than a 22 caliber, which is like what you think of when you’re out shooting as a kid…
04:42 Paul Matzko: Plinking cans. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
04:42 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, exactly. A little bigger than that, not a very hot powder load. So the pressures on the inside of the barrel were relatively low. So they were able to stand up to… Or the plastics themselves were able to stand up to the pressure that the 380 gathered or the 380 produced. So once they got that gun out and then test fired it, then videod the test fire and it was then released by… Released through Wired. They worked closely with Wired throughout all of this to get the word out. Once that video was released of him test firing the Liberator, everybody lost their damn minds.
05:32 Paul Matzko: Yeah. Well, in one of the features or bugs depending on how you look at it, is that it’s plastic initially, right? So it can get through metal detectors, it can get through screenings. There’s some activism, I know Wired wrote about an Israeli gun reform group smuggled one into the Israeli Parliament and got within a few feet of Netanyahu. So that was… Arguably, it’s an over-reaction to the actual validity of the model, but there was a big wave of journalism in 2013-2014, that’s like, “Oh my! Untraceable guns being printed!”
06:07 Aaron Ross Powell: But you’re not 3D printing the bullets. So wouldn’t you have to get… The bullets are still metal and wouldn’t they get caught in the metal detectors?
06:13 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, absolutely. And at least with a lot of the 3D printed gun enthusiast I’ve talked to, and professionals like Wilson and others at Defense Distributed, that’s the end goal, is to create something that’s relatively is fully 3D printable, fully doable at home. But as of now, it’s… You just go to the store and buy a box of ammunition.
06:38 Aaron Ross Powell: Are there already, or were there at this time already plastic guns, that just weren’t 3D printed, or was the notion of a gun itself that could make it through a metal detector new here?
06:50 Mark McDaniel: Not necessarily, the barrel itself… I think that that’s kind of the big deal about the Liberator, was that the barrel was 3D printable. There are definitely plastic guns that have been around for a while, like the most popular hand gun in the world, the Glock is a… The frame of the gun is fully polymer. So there was a big scare at the time Glock came out in the ’80s was, “Oh, these are plastic guns, they’re gonna be sneaking these through metal detectors and getting close to people,” but the rest of the important parts of the gun that have to withstand the pressures created by the gunpowder, they’re all metal. The slide, the barrel, the rails were all metal. So they’re not necessarily new. The thing that made the Liberator really different is that anybody could do it. You just click print. It’s a little more complex than that, but with the right tools, and the right know-how you can just click print and it’ll come out and you can shoot it.
08:01 Matthew Feeney: Can you help unpack the legal environment where these devices land. So there’s the right to keep and bear arms, which seems pretty robust at the moment, but nonetheless there are federal agencies, you mentioned the ATF that have certain regulations concerning the distribution and manufacture of firearms. What laws was Cody Wilson flirting with, or outright breaking? What’s the regulatory or legal concern with this technology?
08:35 Paul Matzko: And I can say what he actually got charged under. So what’s interesting is that it was not the ATF that went after him, initially. So he did get interrogated by the ATF after his printer got pulled by the company, the company that arranged for the printer, they printed Liberator on. They pulled the system, reported him to ATF. ATF comes and says, “What are you doing?” They give him a hard time, but they don’t actually charge him with any crimes. It’s the State Department then that steps in when he’s uploaded the blue print for the Liberator. Unlike the last time he had tried this with the Wiki project in 2012 where he got a handful of downloads. After that video goes viral and he uploads the plans, tens of thousands of people download it in a couple of days. And then what happens is the State Department steps in and says, “You’re violating this 1976 piece of legislation called the Violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR.” Which was, it’s 1976, it’s the Cold War, it’s all about keeping people from selling guns, or smuggling guns to Eastern Europe, it’s all Cold War era logic. But they’re like, “No, look, if you can download this gun, it’s like you’re selling arms or you’re smuggling arms for sure.”
09:52 Aaron Ross Powell: Well, that’s similar to the claims that when they tried to shut down encryption, is that the rules for encryption counted as weapons or munitions that you couldn’t send overseas.
10:03 Matthew Feeney: Right. I suppose what’s motivating the question in the first place is, I’m not sure what the laws are about just making a traditional firearm at home. And then just to be the annoying thought experiment guy, well, so if you have a hobby doing that at home and then you upload the manual of how to do that, would you potentially run afoul of the same legislation that Paul just cited?
10:30 Paul Matzko: But my understanding is that, no, that you are…
10:33 Matthew Feeney: Well, that’s kind of interesting.
10:34 Paul Matzko: You are allowed to make a gun yourself. There’s nothing that says you can’t. In fact, there have been states… I know California is either considering or recently has passed legislation requiring homemade gun makers of any kind to basically apply for a serial number that they then have to stamp on to your, the receiver or the barrel, or I think it’s the receiver, which is new. ‘Cause traditionally, the only people who made guns at home, at least in the US, were hobbyist making… It’s folks who are basically skilled craftsmen who have a side hobby in making guns, rather than… This makes it… Broadens the pool of people who can do this ‘cause now it’s a lot simpler because of the printing and milling technology. But yeah, I don’t think there was anything illegal about making your own gun. And now suddenly, he makes it easy. Wilson makes it easy and demonstrates it, gets a lot of buzz, more and more people start doing it and the state kind of overreacts, is I think how that story goes.
11:39 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, I think that that’s pretty much it. And it’s important to kind of understand what exactly the state regulates when it comes to firearms. So, there are two major laws that govern what qualifies as a firearm and it’s the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act. So basically what these two laws say, is that the frame of the gun is what’s capable of regulating the ammunition, feeding the housing, the trigger, and the hammer device. So the things, the parts that actually make the gun fire, that translate the movement from your finger on the trigger to the hammer falling and then igniting the primer. So this could look like anything, it’s not anything specific.
12:34 Mark McDaniel: So the only thing that those two laws require is that if you’re doing this for commercial purposes, you should go out and you have to put a serial number on it. You have to be licensed with the state and with the Federal Government and submit your place of business or wherever you’re doing this to surprise inspections or anything by the ATF. But if you’re making a gun for your own personal use, none of that’s required, you don’t have to put a serial number on it, you can make it however you want it, safe or as unsafe as you [chuckle] wanna do it. So that’s essentially what a lot of these things are talking about is, how do you make the frame at home? And especially when it comes to 3D printing, how do you 3D print a reliable frame? So this is why like the Glocks, for example, their frame is entirely made out of plastic, it’s all polymer, but it’s the parts of the gun that have to deal with the stress of being fired, that take a little more engineering and stuff like that.
13:54 Aaron Ross Powell: We have laws restricting who can buy a gun. If you’re on certain lists you can’t buy a gun, if you have done certain things you can’t buy a gun. And so, those laws say that if you go to a gun dealer and he sells you a gun, he’s done something wrong. But presumably, those laws would also apply to, he can’t sell you a pile of parts and a screw driver that you can then just go home and assemble into a gun because that’s effectively indistinguishable from… Is that the case? Like it’s effectively indistinguishable from selling you a gun.
14:32 Mark McDaniel: Only if the frame of the gun is actually a firearm. So, it actually fits the definition of a firearm. So, if I can legally sell you a bunch of parts that contain everything you need to do, that has the barrel, the frame, everything, I can legally sell that to you. If the frame doesn’t match up with the legal definition of a firearm, so this is where Defense Distributed’s next step comes in with the introduction of the Ghost Gunner and milling out what they call… What’s called building a gun from 80%. So what an 80% frame or receiver is, 80% is just kind of a colloquial name for an object that doesn’t quite fit the state’s definition of a firearm.
15:33 Paul Matzko: Which will be a 100% if it met the definition.
15:35 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. So, if you’re able to freely sell and purchase and ship all of these items, the 80% receivers or frames, without any interference from the state because they don’t actually meet the definition, but with a couple of hand files, and a drill or something, you can go in and mill it out, and make it into a fully functional firearm that’s capable of accepting the ammunition feeding, the trigger device, and all of that. So it’s all kind of a game about what is legal and isn’t. In one sense, no, you cannot give me a box of parts to assemble a firearm. But you can give me what’s totally not a firearm, and then I can assemble it into a firearm myself and then make the gun.
16:39 Paul Matzko: Yeah. Most of the parts of a gun can be legally and cheaply purchased, like the actual barrel itself or the magazine, or etcetera, and… Well, and the smart thing about the Ghost Gunner platform, just to be clear for our listeners, when we’re talking about a mill, it’s etching out the metal, it’s cutting from the metal, this 80% receiver piece. And so they’re selling you the machine that will let you make your own receiver. They’re not selling you the receiver. Therefore, it’s again another way of working around those requirements.
17:11 Aaron Ross Powell: On the 3D printing, what’s involved to doing that? The fear is that, “Oh my God, if we enable people to distribute the plans that you can feed into a 3D printer, then everyone from militia groups, to the dumb teenager messing around in his garage, can print an unlimited number of firearms.” So is that accurate in the sense that, is this the kind of thing where if all you have is those plans then anyone… Like I could go home this afternoon and read some instructions on the internet and be 3D printing guns by tomorrow? Or is it still much more, I guess, labor intensive or expensive enough that the, “Oh my God, everyone has a gun,” is not quite as realistic?
17:58 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, I think that that’s… From the printers that I’ve talked to, and I’ve sat through and watched some of their processes, it’s way more complicated than just hitting print.
18:12 Aaron Ross Powell: Plus you don’t wanna… You don’t wanna… This is an area where if you 3D print a little figure and you screw it up, its leg breaks, and you have to make another one. But if you 3D print a gun poorly, it’s gonna have lasting consequences.
18:26 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, you wanna keep your fingers. So I’m sure that if you bought a 3D printer and then went and printed the Liberator without a whole lot of knowledge or expertise, chances are it will come out decent. But to do it well and to make a… To make not just guns, but to 3D print anything well takes a lot of know-how. The knowledge of the materials you’re using, the software you’re using, how to get the proper layer height and fill levels right. So it’s not like… You’re not gonna have somebody just go out on a whim and buy a 3D printer and print one of these, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
19:14 Paul Matzko: It’s expanding the pool of people who can do this from a few thousand skilled hobbyists to millions, but not every American. These things cost money, they do take some, both digital expertise, as well as know-how. So, it’s really an evolutionary expansion of the pool.
19:36 Mark McDaniel: Yeah.
19:36 Matthew Feeney: Well, I suppose the question that skeptics will have is, it’s not that the fear presumably among skeptics of this technology is not that everyone will be able to 3D print a gun in their basement or their garage. The worry is one nefariously motivated person who’s willing to take payment via some private crypto-currency and just to hand out these guns on the streets to anyone who wants to buy one without a background check or without anything, giving them out to children. You can imagine this being the nightmare scenario. And is that just a bullet that advocates of this technology should bite? Or are there other… Or is there a reason not to be so freaked out by that possibility?
20:24 Mark McDaniel: Well, that kind of thing happens already now with guns on the streets today. Even the Federal Government is doing this kind of stuff with [chuckle] like… Running guns down to Mexico. It’s not a problem unique to 3D printing guns. It might make it a little more available, but I think where the technology right now is pretty far off from that, and I think it’s a risk that the advocates of 3D printed gun technologies are just going to have to swallow. This is the same risk that the rest of the firearms industry had to deal with forever.
21:12 Paul Matzko: Yeah. Right now there are already easier and cheaper, and basically, even arguably less traceable ways of getting your hands on a gun for good or for ill. For example, there’s a lot of alarm from the ATF and gun control activists about the… About they call… They call these ghost guns, ‘cause you can’t see them, they’re like ghost. But despite the growth of this technology, there’s only been two cases of ghost guns being used in mass shootings, but in that same time period, there’s been literally hundreds of mass shootings from traditionally produced and acquired firearms. It’s not hard to get your hands on a gun. Our system of regulation is not preventing people from getting their hands on guns. So, the proportion of outrage and concern is not in keeping with the actual additional problem that people are seeing, that activists worried about.
22:12 Aaron Ross Powell: Why does any of this matter? We’ve talked about… In prior episodes of this show, we talked about say crypto currencies and that governments can often do try to shut these things down, or limit them and we say, “They shouldn’t because crypto currencies are going to benefit everyone from, at the high end of finance to the low end of unbanked people in authoritarian countries, and so on, and so forth.” So what’s the rosy scenario with 3D printed guns? Why should we… Outside of just the principles of the matter that if code is speech, government shouldn’t be limiting speech, and so it shouldn’t be restricting the distribution of code, but outside of that, why should we care whether people can have 3D printed guns easily?
23:02 Mark McDaniel: So I think that’s because small arms are the seat of all political power. Every policy has to be backed up by some sort of course of action or whatever. So all political power is based on access to small arms. And I think what makes this so significant is it’s distributed that availability outside of the existing regulatory frameworks. So at this point, if you wanna get a gun, you either go through the… You can go through black market channels, or you go to the gun store. But at least the way I see it, what the 3D printed gun has done is it’s taken that political power and distributed it to anybody who has access to these files.
24:07 Paul Matzko: It kinda creates a bit of like a backstop against… So it used to be able for gun control advocates to imagine the possibility if they just acquired enough political power and influence that you could shut down the major gun manufacturers, like that’s no longer possible. As long as our current regulatory system exists which allows relatively easy and broad legal access to firearms, I think this remains relatively niche but it means that it’s never gonna truly be possible without some kind of really major kind of authoritarian ramp up to effectively enact gun-based gun control. Because if you did, let’s say you shut down the traditional manufacturing channels, there’s no way of taking these gun designs off the internet. They’re all over the globe now, you can access them, you’d be whack-a-mole trying to take down gun designs at this point. You’ll have tens… Already, there’s thousands of these mills out there that by the point of something of that happening, there’ll be hundreds of thousands of gun manufacturing mills in individual owners hands able to produce firearms, it makes gun control, major gun control ramping up hard to imagine, almost impossible, to actually enact. So it’s almost kind of like a backstop against gun control measures.
25:29 Aaron Ross Powell: Are the people engaged in designing these guns, or these files for them in perfecting the manufacturing techniques and so on, are they doing it for those sorts of ideological reasons like they think that… Or is it… Are most of them just kind of, this is a fun thing, to try to figure out how to 3D print a gun, and it feels very cyber punk to do it. I guess, how ideologically motivated are the people in this space?
25:58 Mark McDaniel: I think some of them probably are, they wouldn’t have gotten into it if there wasn’t some sort of… I mean there’s the cool factor of, “I’m printing a gun,” and then there’s the kind of rebellious, “Oh, I’m printing a gun.” But for most of the people that I’ve talked to, idealism doesn’t necessarily fit into it. This is just kind of a cool hobby kind of a tinkerer thing to do. And I think that for the vast majority of people, that’s what it is. Wilson kind of brings that to another level and people like Wilson. But one of the things that a lot of these hobbyists don’t have access to is, they don’t have the capital and the man power to make substantial significant developments in the technology itself. They don’t have access to a higher quality and stronger materials, they’re just limited to what they know and what they can research online. Don’t get me wrong, people do really amazing things with that, but until you start getting larger groups focusing on this outside of Defense Distributed, it’s going to stay mostly niche and mostly a hobbyist thing.
27:26 Paul Matzko: Well, and you have… As far as the question of activist versus hobbyist, Wilson definitely fits that activist mold. He just did an interview with Wired. He has that, as you referenced earlier, Mark, there’s that interesting relationship he has with Wired where they’ll get first dibs on stories, he’ll give them interviews, in depth stuff, but then Wired has that… It has the stance of disapproval about him, but there’s this co-dependent relationship, it’s really quite strange. But there’s a Wired… He just did an interview very recently with Wired and we’ll post the link to it in the show notes, where he said, “Look, if this court case hadn’t gone my way, we would have released… We would’ve put the files back up online anyways. We would’ve continued what we’re doing and dared the government to come and take them from us.” And he had actually already purchased a Goliad flag from the Texas Revolution, which is like it’s an arm holding a sword of blood dripping from it, from basically the town of Goliad defying Santa Ana. It led to the Goliad massacre of several hundred. So let’s just say it’s a flag, charged with a kind of an edge of potential violence. And he was all prepared to fly the Goliad flag, dare the Federal Government to take him down to what he compared to a Bundy style, like Cliven Bundy and the…
28:48 Paul Matzko: So he won the court case, so he doesn’t have to bring out the… Or he got the court case settled, so he’s not gonna go there. But that’s something that a true believer and activist get does, not a tinkerer. Maybe we should talk about the court case briefly. So we said he settled. The State Department threatens him with… I’ll put down the number, he could have faced up to 20 years in prison, and a $1 million fine per violation, and remember, tens of thousands of people downloaded the Liberator model, so that’s per each of those 10,000s. So he was facing the possibility of infinite penalties. He defends himself on First Amendment grounds. You mentioned the encryption case earlier. I actually thought that was really interesting. So how much more do you know about the 90s encryption debate.
29:41 Aaron Ross Powell: Oh, not as much as I should.
29:44 Paul Matzko: I thought, it was interesting about… So it’s this guy named Philip Zimmerman in the 90s, he has… And I don’t know the details of his exact cryptography software, something called PGP. But it doesn’t really matter what the specific software was, it’s that the…
29:57 Aaron Ross Powell: It’s a set of equations.
30:00 Paul Matzko: Basically the… Even really the concept of encryption, the military and the State Department argued that, “Hey look, that’s military tech. Encrypting stuff, that belongs to the military, to the State Department, to the CIA. You shouldn’t be allowed to use this set of formulas, encryption formulas, for private use. This should remain in the military.” So they’re gonna go after this Zimmerman fellow on these grounds. They eventually backed down, he makes the same kind of First Amendment arguments that Wilson actually successfully made. They backed down, but it’s a big deal because, literally, all that software we use on a daily basis from social media, to email, to online payments, all of that uses encryption technology that was technically, that the State Department was arguing was a violation of the same ITAR agreement that we’re talking about now.
30:54 Matthew Feeney: You have to pity the government lawyer who had to make the argument that mathematics was only…
31:00 Matthew Feeney: Only something that they were allowed to use.
31:03 Paul Matzko: [31:03] ____, that’s a military tech, sorry.
31:04 Matthew Feeney: Right. It’s military technology. Only you can use it. Now, that’s a… It’s an interesting argument. And you run into these arguments and a whole host of new tech issues or whether just saying true things about the world, is something that the First Amendment protects. And then, of course, in this country, you have the added Second Amendment, because it’s a firearms issue, the right to keep and bear arms, but also the right to communicate about… And we should be clear this. The freedom to communicate about something that is a craft, that is a hobby, that is a recreational past time that people… This was not something about how to 3D… Using a mythical tool to 3D print heroin. This was something that a new way of developing a product that has been a part of American history forever. And I think it’s interesting that the case ended the way it did, but from what you said about Cody Wilson, I’m not sure if he’s the kind of ambassador that other people in the movement want.
32:06 Paul Matzko: Yeah.
32:07 Matthew Feeney: I guess, Mark can tell us more about… ‘Cause you’ve actually met him.
32:12 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, yeah.
32:13 Matthew Feeney: Likeable fellow?
32:15 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, I enjoyed sitting around, visiting with him. I mean very intense guy.
32:19 Matthew Feeney: Right.
32:21 Mark McDaniel: He’s very ideologically driven. I think a lot of it’s kind of this act in a sense of creating this villain character to play off the sensibilities of middle America.
32:37 Paul Matzko: There’s a sense of he’s trolling the Liberals. There’s that sense about him I get sometimes when I hear his interview.
32:42 Mark McDaniel: But it’s not just the Liberals, it’s everybody, it’s kind of going after… And I think that’s one of the big reasons why he went with the firearms route, is challenging political authority itself.
33:00 Aaron Ross Powell: Where does this… Looking forward now, so he’s won. The government settled, he’s won. He can continue to distribute plans for 3D printed guns. Presumably the fact that he’s won this means that more people now will step forward because there are probably lots of people who would love to have done it, but are more risk averse than he was.
33:20 Mark McDaniel: Well, there were more people doing it the entire time…
33:23 Aaron Ross Powell: Sure.
33:23 Mark McDaniel: That [chuckle].. That he was embargoed by the State Department. Basically the State Department went after them using these ITAR regulations and said, “This is a violation of… You’re exporting military materials to other countries by publishing these files.” And they just went after Defense Distributed. Everybody else on the internet, the hobbyist, they continued to produce their own stuff. FOSSCAD is a good example of a kind of loose collective of people who would gather in an IRC chat and talk about gun designs and try different things out and send and share and change and modify. This stuff was happening the entire time and the government didn’t care. It was more of a way for the State Department to make a statement on this and kind of pre-empt that speech, that’s how it got into the speech realm. And I do think it is important to note that this wasn’t a… It wasn’t a win in the courts, this argument did not win on the merits, it was basically just a settlement with the government. So, is anything set in stone from this? No, not yet. But…
34:49 Aaron Ross Powell: ‘Cause the government could pick it up again if they chose to?
34:51 Mark McDaniel: Yeah, but I think that after this, they might think twice about, “Is it really worth going after people for something like this, after what a, almost five-year long [chuckle] lawsuit.”
35:06 Paul Matzko: And we should note that actually, the Cato Institute filed a amicus brief along with the Electronic Freedom Foundation and some reporter lobbying groups on the First Amendment boundary. So this actually crosses over… There’s a way in which the same technologies of interest to people printing pharmaceuticals in their own home. As long as you’re not using the pharmaceuticals for commercial use, that’s a growing area of… So the FDA has an interest in this as well. This is gonna be tested on multiple fronts not just on gun control. Do you as an individual have the right to distribute, to download plans that have been distributed for free on the web for making your own, I don’t know, aspirin? Probably not gonna be aspirin. [chuckle] It’s probably gonna be heroin. But…
35:52 Matthew Feeney: Your words, not mine.
35:53 Paul Matzko: Yeah, yeah.
35:55 Paul Matzko: Matthew’s heroin is gonna… Is in trouble now. [chuckle] One of the implications, I thought, was particularly interesting. There was this series of articles by a guy named Jon Stokes, who wrote… Writes for Wired, Politico, he actually helped found Ars Technica, back in the day, where he made the argument… I have to see what you guys think about how believable this is that this… Because it’s gonna become significantly harder for the state to actually enact and enforce bans on particular guns, because as this technology spreads as the community grows, it’s gonna get harder and harder to actually effectively keep people’s hands off particular categories of guns, that instead this will make a shift towards gun control based on individual ownership. So, in other words, rather than saying, you can have these guns, you can have whatever, a Walther P38, but you can’t have an AR-15, and lists of approved guns and unapproved guns that that becomes almost impossible to do under this new regime. And instead, they’ll say, “We’re gonna license individuals. So it doesn’t really… It matters less what kind of guns you have, are you someone who is licensed to carry, in general?
37:18 Matthew Feeney: Yeah, I can see gun rights groups will have filed a suit before [chuckle] the ink is dry on this for a couple of… So one thing is that, if there’s one thing gun rights groups always keep an eye out for is, any kind of list that the government has of people who own weapons. And the second thing is license for something that’s codified in the Bill of Rights is… We don’t have licenses for people to publish blogs, or newspapers, or anything like that. You don’t need a license to exercise your Fifth Amendment right, or anything like that. So now, these arguments won’t be persuasive to many, many people and I haven’t thought through them all entirely, but I can imagine arguments along that line will, I imagine, prevent anything like that from ever taking place.
38:04 Aaron Ross Powell: How far away are we from the technology being good enough that this isn’t just making six-shot plastic guns or kind of novelty sorts of things but where you can be manufacturing, like what amount? Legit, high-end firearms in your own home?
38:25 Mark McDaniel: I’m sure what it’s going to look like over the next couple of years. But now that it’s basically out in the open, anybody can engage in this now without fear of reprisal from the state. I think we’ll see some interesting things. It’s going to be groups that have access to the good engineers, the better materials and stuff like that, that are going to develop some things that are substantially better than what we’ve got now. So I don’t know, maybe over the next couple of years we’ll see some interesting developments. But if you wanna make your own gun, Reason also published earlier this year, a guide to how to make your own off-the-books hand gun, and how to do it legally. So it’s building up a gun from 80%. Ordering all the parts online, having it shipped to your house, not going through any FFL middle man, or anything like that. It’s a relatively simple process. So we published the… Published it in the July issue of Reason Magazine and then had an accompanying video that was then barred from YouTube, so we hosted it on Pornhub. [chuckle] So if you wanna learn how to build your own gun, there’s tons of information out there, but Reason has one specifically on that. And if you’re adventurous, you can check out the video. [chuckle]
40:02 Paul Matzko: Well, thank you so much, Mark for coming in. Thank you, Matthew and Aaron, for joining us as usual. And do be sure to check out, we’ll put it in the show notes, the many documentary that Mark produced for Reason about printed gun technology, about the Defence Distributed and touched on Cody Wilson. And until next week, be well.
40:22 Paul Matzko: Building Tomorrow is produced by Tess Terrible. If you enjoy our show please rate, review and subscribe to us on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. To learn about Building Tomorrow or to discover other great podcasts, visit us on the web at libertarianism.org.