Real, complete, fire-able 3D printed ‘liberator’ gun downloaded tens of thousands of times
May 9, 2013
If gun control advocates hoped to prevent blueprints for the world’s first fully 3D-printable gun from spreading online, that horse has now left the barn about a hundred thousand times.
That’s the number of downloads of the 3D-printable file for the so-called “Liberator” gun that the high-tech gunsmithing group Defense Distributed has seen in just the last two days, a member of the group tells me. The gun’s CAD files have been ten times more popular than any component the group has previously made available, parts that have included the body of an AR-15 and the magazine for an AK-47.”This has definitely been our most well-received download,” says Haroon Khalid, a developer working with Defense Distributed. “I don’t think any of us predicted it would be this much.”
The controversial gun-printing group is hosting those files, which include everything from the gun’s trigger to its body to its barrel, on a service that has attracted some controversy of its own: Kim Dotcom’s Mega storage site. Although the blueprint is only publicly visible on Defense Distributed’s own website Defcad.org, users who click on it are prompted to download the collection of CAD files from Mega.co.nz, which advertises that it encrypts all users’ information and has a reputation for resisting government surveillance.
Cody Wilson, Defense Distributed’s 25-year-old founder, says that the group chose to use Mega mostly because it was fast and free. But he also says he feels a degree of common cause with Kim Dotcom, the ex-hacker chief executive of Mega who has become a vocal critic of the U.S. government after being indicted for copyright infringement and racketeering in early 2012. “We’re sympathetic to Kim Dotcom,” says Wilson. “There are plenty of services we could have used, but we chose this one. He’s down for the struggle.”
The most downloads of Defense Distributed’s “Liberator,” surprisingly, haven’t come from the U.S., but from Spain, according to Khalid’s count. The U.S. is second, ahead of Brazil, Germany, and the U.K., he says, although he wasn’t able to provide absolute download numbers for each country.
Update: Although Spain was initially outpacing the U.S. in downloads, it seems more Americans have now downloaded the file.
The gun’s blueprint, of course, may have also already spread far wider than Defense Distributed can measure. It’s also been uploaded to the filesharing site the Pirate Bay, where it’s quickly become one of the most popular files in the site’s 3D-printing category. “This is the first in what will become an avalanche of undetectable, untraceable, easy-to-manufacture weapons that will turn the tables on evil-doers the world over,” writes one user with the name DakotaSmith on the site. “Share and enjoy.”
It’s worth noting that only a fraction of those who download the printable gun file will ever try to actually create one. Defense Distributed used an $8,000 second-hand Stratasys Dimension SST to print their prototype, a 3D printer that the vast majority of its fans won’t have access to.
Nonetheless the “Liberator,” which I first revealed last Friday and then witnessed being test-fired over the weekend, has caused an enormous stir online. Defense Distributed says that it received 540,000 users to its website in the two days since its printable gun was released, and its video revealing the gun has attracted 2.8 million views on YouTube.
The project has also already immediately inspired a legal backlash. New York congressmen Steve Israel and Chuck Schumer have both called for the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act to ban any gun that can’t be spotted with a metal detector.
But Defense Distributed’s real goal hasn’t been to create an undetectable gun so much as an uncensorable, digital one. As the group’s founder radical libertarian founder Cody Wilson sees it, firearms can be made into a printable file that blurs the line between gun control and information censorship, blending the First Amendent and the Second and demonstrating how technology can render the government irrelevant.
“Call me crazy, but I see a world where contraband will pass underground through the data cables to be printed in our homes as the drones move overhead,” Wilson said when we first spoke in August of last year. “I see a kind of poetry there…I dream of this very weird future and I’d like to be a part of it.”
Scary. We reported this about a year ago when they only had a few parts of the gun available to print. It got reblogs with comments like ‘yah but they won’t develop the technology in our lifetime to print the whole gun.’ Welp, as I said then and I say now, this is not some distant-future technology. It is here now, available to people who have an expensive 3D Printer, but in the next few years, 3D printers will become cheaper and cheaper and eventually, way cheaper. So I think this is important & I think we should be paying attention to this.