In 2012, Cody Wilson founded Defense Distributed — a company whose mission is to "defend the civil liberty of popular access to arms" through "information and knowledge related to the 3D printing of arms." In an interview, Wilson talks about his next big plans, and says the Newtown shooting was "the cost of freedom."
Wilson, a former law student and self-described "crypto-anarchist" [insert gag reflex here], made headlines when he posted the plans for his Liberator handgun online. The U.S. government forced him to take down the plans last year, but not before the CAD drawings had been downloaded tens of thousands of times. Since then, government agencies and police departments around the world have launched public information campaigns to warn of the hazards of using Wilson's handiwork.
In a creepy new interview, excerpted from Computerworld, Wilson discusses his views on gun ownership, the NRA, open source information, and reveals his current sources of income, which include a book deal with Simon & Schuster:
Have you partnered with gun rights groups like the NRA?
No. The NRA doesn't like what we're doing. It's like they have no public statement even to this day even admitting we exist. There are some gun rights groups that you could call fellow travellers and we have a friendly relationship with. We haven't capitalized on the relationship.
How do you feel about background checks?
I feel like it's part of a disciplinary fantasy. Like oh, we can know what everyone's doing. It's just kind of conceit of knowledge that I think is a fantasy. I think a realistic way of treating guns is not to do background checks before hand but to deal with actors afterwards. Is it a good business practice to rely on background checks? Yeah, sure. But I'm not playing that game.
What are you doing these days? You graduated from college; you created Defense Distributed and the Liberator, are they your main focus or are there other interests?
We just released a big piece of Bitcoin software with a group of anarchists in Spain. It's called the Dark Wallet
So how are you making money?
Like I said, we did this big Bitcoin project and raised like six figures for that, and I have a book deal from Simon & Schuster. It's enough to keep me going right now.
Can you explain why you're doing this? Is this all about the Right to Bear Arms under the Second Amendment?
Gun people and Second Amendment people like the project, but for me it's really about the implications of open source and the digital age. It's global in scope.
Rights talk is not something I really engage in. I'm interested in critical theory. There's no way to stop what we're doing, so I think we can challenge the legal structure itself or make it aware of its contradictions about this or get it to accommodate the fact that things like this are going to happen.I recognize that only the United States, and maybe one or two other countries, has the legal tolerance for this kind of activity. We think of the Internet to mean there will be consequences like this. There will be the ability to digitally manufacture things like guns that are easy to make.I just think personal armament is an implication of the future. It's not something that's going away in some progressive sense of civil destiny.
How do you address opposition to what you're doing and people who point to the shootings in Newtown, Conn. and say what you're doing will just make it worse?
We can play a numbers game... but, if you argue from principle, freedom is scary. If you want to talk about rights, what does it mean to respect a civil liberty or civil right? Well, it means you understand there are social costs in having that right; that's why it deserves protection in the first place.
That's why these people are not practicing civil libertarians to say we should prohibit a whole class of activity because there's a certain amount of violence or deaths that might happen. This is the cost of freedom.
So, do you think there should be any regulations around the printing of 3D printed guns?
No, I'm definitely not concerned with regulating it. In fact, I'm daring people to try. These 3D printers are general use technologies and software agnostic. It's been amazing watching the United States and other state and municipal governments try to deal with it. All we've seen so far is outright bans like in the city of Philadelphia. Well, that's not very useful and it's not going to work.
What gun technology do you have planned for the future?
We've got some interesting files, some new printing materials, but nothing I want to release until we've got more of a stable relationship with these regulators. I've got a super secret gun thing coming out in a couple months here. It's not necessarily a gun itself, but it should be pretty exciting for gun people.