Blueprints for 3D printed guns stay offline for now — but we should still be worried

A 2MB zip file contains all you need to 3D print your own gun – a pistol called the Liberator – from the comfort of your home. It’s been doing the rounds since 2013, thanks to an Austin, Texas-based non-profit called Defense Distributed (DD). The US Department of State ordered founder Cody Wilson to remove the content from his site that year, but torrent users continued to share it.

DD planned to begin distributing files again starting today – but it was blocked by a temporary restraining order sought by eight state attorneys general, as well as the the District of Columbia. The ban followed a monumental victory for Wilson and his ilk last month, when the Department of State agreed to lift its five-year-long order against the organization.

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The truth is that the aforementioned legal battles don’t matter a whole lot right now: DD actually made the files available last Friday on its DEFCAD site, so they’ve already fallen into the hands of those who want them. There’s also a GitHub repository maintained by a group called FOSSCAD, where you can find designs for a range of pistols, rifles, and ammo.

All this points to the fact that we’re getting rather uncomfortably close to a future where anyone with access to a 3D printer could fabricate an untraceable plastic gun that fires real bullets – and could do real damage.

Back in 2013, it cost $25 in materials to produce a 3D printed gun, and the machine needed to make it cost about a thousand dollars. The price of printers has dropped significantly since then.

It’s also worth noting that you can already legally buy what are called 80 percent lowers, which are essentially incomplete receivers (the frame that contains other parts that facilitate firing, and ‘receives’ the barrel that bullets travel through when shot out of a gun) without serial numbers. A little machine work, and you’ve got yourself a functioning untraceable gun.

Oh, and DD also makes and sells the Ghost Gunner, a $2,000 automated milling machine that fits on your desktop and can cut away at blocks of metal (like aluminium) to finish these lowers – no prior CNC experience required.

Credit: Defense Distributed