The Guardian view on printing guns: shadow-boxing the apocalypse

Cody Wilson and 3D-printed gun

The United States has long had a pathological relationship with guns. But other countries must now deal with the consequences. That is the logical outcome of the extraordinary decision of the State Department to cave in to the demands of a young libertarian who believes that everyone in the world should be able to make and use guns without any government control.

Like so many libertarians, Cody Wilson believes that he can use technological change to enact his political vision. In this case, it is the technology of 3D printing, which allows almost anything to be modelled in plastic using relatively cheap and widespread machinery operating under computer control. Mr Wilson’s organisation sells 3D printers and gives away the software needed to drive them and the instructions to assemble the result into lethal weapons. Until June, the State Department was trying to stop him distributing the software files on the grounds that these breached laws on weapons exports. The case had been running since 2013, when Mr Wilson put on the internet his first instructions for making a gun which would be invisible to metal detectors and – because of the lack of serial numbers – untraceable by governments. They were taken down within a week, after the State Department first stepped in. Now that it has surrendered (and even paid some of Mr Wilson’s legal costs), the only legal obstacle to his plans is a suit brought by eight states. On Tuesday, a district judge issued a temporary order stopping the release of the blueprints.

In one sense this case is all shadow boxing. The software is already available to anyone with access to a search…

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