Cody Wilson, head of Defense Distributed is in deep trouble. Some time after he tested his 3-D printed plastic gun, he received a notice from the US government authorities ordering him to remove the online blueprints regarding the assembly of the gun. The possible dangers of this cyber-style “weapons for the masses” methodology is to close for comfort.
Not even a month had gone by since he had displayed his home-made gun for online perusal, when Cody Wilson was handed a formal ultimatum from the US government telling him to stop the mischief. As the creator of Defense Distributed, an anarchist group of libertarians who stood up for their right to use firearms, Cody had taken a bold and reckless step. Using a 3-D Printer he had created the components of a plastic gun and then gone on to road-test it at an unspecified location outside of Austin, Texas.
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The official order letter sent has meaning that now any Tom, Dick and Harry could gain access to a gun created at home and happily fire away to his heart’s content. All he would need would be the right apparatus and an Internet connection. The moral consequences of this sudden act of free license were too ugly to contemplate. So the government stepped in and took matters in its own hands. The Department of Defense dictated the terms to Cody. He was to eliminate any building plans he may have posted on the Net regarding his so-called “Liberator” gun.
The government charges brought against Wilson are that he and his group have violated certain international weapons traffic rules and regulations. The explicit message is that he will have to comply with the government decree or face the long arm of the law. The state department wants Cody Wilson to erase all data files from his site. They lend dangerous information that could prove explosive in the wrong hands.
Wilson meanwhile has acquiesced in the governmental fiat. Being a lawyer himself, he has decided to quietly remove all the potent information from his site. It is the only right thing to do. Too many tragic incidents like the Columbine High School disaster or the Virginia Tech massacre have occurred for such irresponsible sites to continue to proliferate.
Meanwhile, already a lot of damage has been done. Over 100,000 downloads have already taken place from the site. Furthermore, in the words of Cody Wilson, it is not a defeat for him or his group. He claims Defense Distributed does not come under the umbrella of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) laws. Besides, with everything being available on the Internet, it is unfair to target a fairly harmless plastic gun like the “Liberator” that fires once only.
The Net has always kept its freedom intact despite efforts by government agencies to curtail some of its worst excesses. But life comes before everything else. When any action becomes a threat to self or society the law always steps in. And so it has this time around too.