By John Crump
The Wiki Weapon project’s goal was to make a 3D printed gun. This scared a lot of people inside and outside the Government. Cody Wilson was thrust from being a law student to being on the front lines of gun and digital rights.
The first step in the Wiki Weapon project was to make a printable lower receiver for an AR15. Defense Distributed then moved onto 3D printing magazines for the AR15 and AKM rifles when congress was considering putting a limitation of magazine capacity. Much like the “plastic Glock” scare of the 1980s this set the news media into a frenzy.
In 2013 Defense Distributed hit their goal of producing a 3D gun chambered in .380 ACP called the “Liberator” named after the infamous gun dropped over France during World War 2. Days after it’s release the State Department shut down the project and pulled the plans off the internet for violating ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations).
Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed was not going to back down without a fight. In 2015 Defense Distributed, with the help of The Second Amendment Foundation, filed a lawsuit against the State Department claiming that the files used to print the Liberator was protected speech under the First Amendment. This lawsuit is still pending.
Defense Distributed has now launched a home CNC machine to complete 80% AR15 lower receivers. This is a revolutionary machine that I had a chance to acquire. After milling out several lowers I needed to get into the mind of the founder of Defense Distributed. I asked Cody Wilson if he would mind talking with me. It turns out he is a fan of AmmoLand News and granted me an interview.
This is my interview with the man Wired magazine considers one of the most dangerous people in the world : Cody Wilson.
John Crump: You didn’t grow up with guns, but came to the realization that owning gun was a prudent thing to do. What made you come to that realization?
Cody Wilson: I'd say the background music of my existence. In Arkansas everyone hunted and fished. Everyone's granddad was in the war or their father was on base. I was a boy scout and camped on military grounds. I recall moving to Texas after university and feeling pleased I could buy a shotgun for home defense should I need it. This was all true even without my respect for the founding principles of our Republic.
John Crump: When you started the first “Wiki Weapon” project did you think it would be this controversial?
Cody Wilson: Yes. I immediately understood its potential for controversy and hoped for the worst possible case.
John Crump: You are a Crypto-anarchists. What exactly does that mean?
Cody Wilson: This refers to a brand of techno-libertarian tactics espoused by Tim May and other cryptography and privacy radicals in the early 1990's. May believed strong, public cryptographic protections would allow people to lock the government out of private communications, commerce and maybe even politics. They saw what the combination of the Internet and strong crypto meant, and that it could be a new era of evading government surveillance and expropriation.
John Crump: What is the ultimate goal of Defense Distributed? I have a feeling it is a lot more than just 3D printing guns.
Cody Wilson: A private defense firm in the public interest. A platform for the publication of the entire harvest of the intellectual property of the digital production of firearms.
John Crump: How did you come up with the idea of a 3D printed gun?
Cody Wilson: Benjamin Denio explained the concept to me. He believed it might be possible to use a 3D printer to make a gun. I was awed and added the Wikileaks component to create “Wiki Weapon,” the name of our project.
John Crump: What do you have to say to people that have called you things such as an “insurrectionist”?
Cody Wilson: Words like “thank you” and “yes.”
John Crump: Do you agree with with Wired Magazine calling you “the 15th most dangerous person alive”?
Cody Wilson: The words were not true then. But I would like them to be true one day.
John Crump: Why did you print AR15 lower receivers before trying to make a pistol?
Cody Wilson: The first DD crew had seen Michael Guslick demonstrate his AR pistol lower, printed in ABS. We knew it would be possible to refine his design and make more noteworthy attempts. We thought doing AR work would bring attention to our group and help advertise our project: that we wanted to print a whole gun. This approach was correct and attracted the right talent and interest to get the job done.
John Crump: Were you surprised by the backlash against the printing of lower receivers since polymer lower receivers are widely available?
Cody Wilson: It was (and still is) impossible to explain to journalists that many commercial lowers are polymer. They don't care. You'll still see polymer lowers on the news and people will say they are printed.
John Crump: What do you think about people who insist that the second amendment is not about a citizen’s right to own firearms?
Cody Wilson: Without exception these people are disingenuous and have studied the issue at least enough to know their ignorance comes from malice.
John Crump: The “Liberator” is a single shot .380 ACP pistol. What made you decide to go with the .380 ACP cartridge?
Cody Wilson: .380 ACP was the first commercial cartridge that worked! It's max chamber pressure is deceptively low. We built the gun around the barrel.
John Crump: Did you expect that The State Department was going to use ITAR to shut down the Liberator project?
Cody Wilson: ITAR had been mentioned very early on in our project and then dismissed once we had studied the exceptions for public domain work and scientific research etc. I did not actually think it would be State that came after us. I was always thinking DOJ through ATF.
John Crump: Stratasys 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing reprocessed your first 3D printer basically because they didn’t want you using their product to print guns, but they have a lot of ties with other gun companies. Why do you think they cracked down on you?
Cody Wilson: Brand management. They did not want to have the name associated with the project. So that's what we gave them. We knew we had to print the gun on a stratasys in the end.
John Crump: Why did Defense Distributed decide to make the CNC machine, The Ghost Gunner (GG)?
Cody Wilson: We needed to make a product we could sell to raise the money to sue the State Department over Liberator. I'm being totally serious. GG came from ideas given to us through the course of Wiki Weapon and the success of DEFCAD. People often suggested we should make a CNC and stop being silly with the printables.
John Crump: The Ghost Gunner 2 is truly revolutionary. Why do you think the NSSF decided not to give membership to Defense Distributed which basically banned DD from shot show?
Cody Wilson: Honestly I think it's the simple trouble of the association. We are suing the DDTC, a bureau in the State Department that enforces export controls and is a group the NSSF has to make very nice with so they can pretend to continue to influence policy directions. Nevermind that they have humiliated themselves with DDTC's most recent guidance on gunsmithing, not to mention the outright disaster that the last six year of “export control reform” have been. Great work NSSF!
John Crump: The NRA has also been really quiet on Defense Distributed and not giving any comment when asked about DD. Why do you think that is?
Cody Wilson: They are right to not give the homemade gun issue any more oxygen. My only fear is in a time of less Republican power in the Senate that NRA will be free to sell homemades down the river with a registration “compromise.” California suggests the direction of this trend.
John Crump: You have other projects such as “Dark Wallet”. What is that?
Cody Wilson: Dark Wallet is a humble project to release the source code that can help make bitcoin transactions anonymous and difficult to examine forensically. Anyone can take this code and integrate it into their bitcoin wallet software, etc. https://darkwallet.is
John Crump: What do you think about the future of 3D printed firearms?
Cody Wilson: With printable composites and increased machine accuracies, there will be a whole new continent of craft to explore in firearm production.
John Crump: What does Defense Distributed have in store for the future?
Cody Wilson: I have two relatively large projects that Ghost Gunner has provided me the funds to develop. I'll reveal the first of these as soon as I get my first victory in court.
John Crump: Any final words?
Cody Wilson: We should all take as much ground for our firearms and militia cultures as possible in the next four years. There will be no easy years after.
- Defense Distributed can be found at https://defdist.org/
- The Ghost Gunner 2 can be purchased at https://ghostgunner.net/
Cody’s book, Come and Take It: The Gun Printer's Guide to Thinking Free, Is available in print and audio where ever books are sold.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC and is the co-host of The Patriot News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on the history of the patriot movement and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss or at www.crumpy.com.