On August 1, 2018, schemes to create 3D guns through 3D printers were published online. In June, the lawsuit was filed against the government, which obtained permission to publish the schemes to the organisation that created these plastic weapons. So with the victory of the first lawsuit it was established that Defense Distributed can spread online, free of charge its plans for a gun, the Liberator. But nine U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, have sued in a Seattle court since Monday to ask the Trump administration to prevent the publication of STL files. Judge Seattle has effectively blocked the dissemination of these projects temporarily pending the judicial response.

Cody Wilson with his Liberator

Cody Wilson, owner of the organization that owns the projects argues that it is a limitation of his freedom of expression and it is only about drawings, not weapons: until now the legal battles have proved him right, and Wilson has been allowed to distribute the schemes, in any form, with the last cause. The U.S. government has also taken on Wilson’s 40,000 dollars in legal fees. Although after this new stop the case is reopened on all fronts.

Liberator, come back to speak of himself, more than 5 years after the original project. This funny and deadly 3D-printed weapon has once again made headlines thanks to all the legal battles it unleashes in America these days.

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But is this weapon really dangerous? And how much?

The not-so-long shape, sketched, stimulates more smiles than fear, has all the impression of being a cartoon gun. Even the use is limited, if realized rule of art can fire only one shot, then it must be reloaded. Exact… a step back from the weapons we’re used to seeing in action movies. A throwback to the days when you took the Bastille. The real danger of this weapon is given by the material that composes it for almost all, the ABS. This plastic, of which LEGO bricks are also made, is invisible to metal detectors. That’s why they’re called “Ghost Weapons.”

Legal framing and a bit of history

The legislation is unclear, confusing, especially in the United States, where there is a Second Amendment that protects the right of every citizen to own weapons. So what to do with these 3D guns? But even in places where it is illegal to hold weapons, you can not punish those who simply download the file, maybe a simple curious! We need the flagrant offense. The only known case to date was Yoshimoto Imura, a Japanese Youtuber who showed 3D printed weapons in his video, promptly arrested.  Except then to be released because, despite self-reporting, it was pointed out that he did not even possess a bullet. So we can count him among the curious.

In the rest of the world it’s a little clearer. Firearms cannot be held without a firearm, and the weapon must be registered in any case. But the question is, when does it become a weapon? A gun like that without metal parts, so not able to shoot is considered weapon? Let’s hope they clarify this point because otherwise there could be a series of curious people, who want to test this print, taking it as a challenge, rather than for real interest in weapons.

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In addition, many other weapons of this kind have spread in recent years, downloadable for free from Fosscad.org (where files are exchanged as torrents) or Defcad (a stl search engine, blocked on the date of publication of this article, temporarily, for the implications explained above), to name 2 of the best known. Significantly better performing weapons than the Liberator. Some manage to fire more shots, others look like “professional” sisters in all way.

 

So why bother with 3D guns, Liberator?

There are 3 crucial points that raise the authorities’ concerns and put the spotlight both on themedia echoand on the actual danger of these weapons:

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3d guns: Potentially dangerous media echo

  • First of all this 3D gun is downloaded and printed by ordinary people, who intrigue, fish projects from sites that proclaim themselves educational, always the same strategy. The site allows the sharing of the project, which does not reside on its servers. Users exchange it for torrent and therefore are not responsible. A bit like the various sites that share movies and music, you download the responsibility by saying: Look at it only if you own the original copy! If not, it’s illegal, so it’s your business! And so that’s how they end up in the hands of those who don’t know the potential of firearms, and that’s how they become dangerous.Especially in contact with children in the mood for experimentation. The Government will have to draw up a rule to limit the spread of weapons projects without affecting the free movement of files that we now have. And as it usually happens, it’s unlikely to happen. It is not the criminals, for once, who worry about the spread of these plastic weapons, they have the channels to obtain “real” weapons. In fact, they probably look at it with a little suspicion, because they begin to realize that if technology makes progress it could blow a market share.

3D Guns: Real dangers 

  • The first real danger of plastic weapons comes from terrorism. These weapons forged in ABS are not detected by metal detectors, as they call them “Ghost Weapons”, except for some components, the dog and the barrel. The warning stems from the fact that, with an organization not too overpowering the metal pieces could be disassembled and introduced into “weapon free” zones, such as courts, airports etc., easily, and then reunited with th
    e weapon inside.
    It is not a hypothesis to be taken lightly even if the security systems will soon be equipped for this eventuality
  • The third and perhaps most serious danger posed by these new weapons is that they are being built by curious, passionate and fanatical. So in this case, in addition to the safety of the target, you also have to take care of those who wield it. The project is tested but just a few imperfections in the printing or assembly error that we will see some bleeding hand, or worse. Let’s remember that it’s always plastic that has to do with an explosion! (see photo)
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I hope that this analysis, however superficial, has made you desist from the idea of creating one of these guns. Or if you are reading this article, precisely because you plan to build it in the near future, at least you can do it as responsibly as possible! Always reminding you to check the law, because in your country, even making one to be exhibited, if it is operational you may need to carry arms.