In 2013, hot-shot crypto-anarchist Cody Wilson warned the world that downloadable guns were imminent and gun control as we know it, a mere fantasy. Some five years later, fresh off a huge effective win against the State Department — which allows for Wilson to post his 3D-printable gun files online, "communist style," as he calls it — Wilson says gun control is officially dead. And he killed her.
"I barely put a million bucks into this and I got you the Second Amendment forever," he boasted to The Daily Wire in a phone interview. "What has the NRA done for you lately?"
Due to the terms of the surprising settlement of the United States government, Wilson can begin posting his open-source technical data, including files for every gun up to .50 caliber available through commerce, on July 27. An irrevocable content dump, according to Wilson, which renders gun control efforts increasingly futile.
Moreover, in the settlement, "the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber – including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms – are not inherently military," notes a press release from the Second Amendment Foundation. In other words, the handful of liberal states that currently ban "assault weapons" like the AR-15, such as New York state via the SAFE Act, could potentially face legal challenges.
For some context, Wilson first exploded onto the scene with his invention of the Liberator, the world’s first functioning 3D-printed gun named after the iconic WWII weapon intended to arm the disarmed masses. Wilson, then just 25, dropped his open-source gun files online and quickly earned himself the uncomfortable position of being in the crosshairs of the federal government, a position he seemingly intentionally provoked.
The crypto-anarchist was warned by the feds that he needed "permission" to post his gun files — speech that was treated as an export — and told that the files were likely in violation of the ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). Thus, Wilson was effectively forced to shut down his lucrative site defcad.com, where the files were hosted and being quickly downloaded. With the looming pressure from State, Wilson’s then-lawyer told him to shut his mouth, tuck tail, and forget his naïve gun adventures. "My conversations were, literally, ‘Hey, how long until I have to go to jail,'" Wilson told The Daily Wire.
Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW
But Wilson, reading the tea leaves from a slow-moving and non-committal federal government, thought he might have a First Amendment argument and a shot at winning a suit against State. Wilson found new heavyweight legal representation and took that very expensive shot by filing suit in May of 2015.
Some three years later, Wilson’s stamina and "stupid, stubborn will" won out; the Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement in April, which was formalized in June. State abandoned their position and served up a huge First and Second Amendment win. "Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby," said Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation.
To Wilson, this is the "hardest backstop" yet to the Second Amendment, and the final nail in the gun control coffin.
Never one to shy away from the dramatic, Wilson quite literally buried "American Gun Control" with his team at Ghost Gunner, a company run by the 30-year-old that leads the industry in DIY gun-making CNC milling machines — a project initially started to fund his suit.
Wilson arguably has a penchant for over-selling (at least at the launch of his many projects), but he’s not wrong about gun control as we know it.
"This doesn’t put the rifle in everyone’s hand, but it does that in essence. The DNA of our culture is preserved," he explained. "This is the first pillar in the internet gun culture of tomorrow, and it is permanent."
Wilson emphasized that this can’t be regulated in any meaningful way. "Anything that makes it through my organization now, becomes public domain material, irrevocably so," he said. "I’m the shepherd... and I’m going to put any and everything up."
And Defense Distributed, a nonprofit organization founded by Wilson that maintains defcad.com, will only help to accelerate gun culture online via their open-source content, standing as a reference resource and model for customization. "It’s kinda like GitHub for guns," he said.
"People aren’t reinventing the wheel every day," explained Wilson. "Now we help to accelerate our culture, beyond just an encyclopedic interest. People now have a beginning point; they can begin to develop models based off our models, or new models that integrate with the models."
Wilson expects political resistance, though he says it will be sluggish. "Could Trump be bothered to care? I don’t know. And this is all signed off by DOJ. They can’t just, on a dime, stop it."
Of course, this has a global impact, too. Once these files are online, and now formally so, all with an uncensored Internet have access. Depending on how you view guns generally and choose to frame Wilson’s win, this could mean more global access to self-defense, or further aid to criminals and foreign enemies.
Other countries have taken notice of Wilson. For example, the liberal pinnacle of gun control, Australia, began preemptively cracking down on gun files in 2015. An Australian in possession of such a file could face up to 14 years behind bars.
Asked if he has any moral reservations about the approved technology, specifically as these downloadable and untraceable guns become more efficiently produced and thus more common, Wilson simply stated, "No, I don't."
"Ghost Gunner taught me a lot," he elaborated. "It continues to be very difficult to accurately reproduce a lot of this stuff," he added, acknowledging that what he's helped to build will fall short of this most intense "fevered vision" of a dystopian society flooded with digital and untraceable guns.
Whatever your views on Wilson, you can’t knock his dedication to his ideals. In an interview with Wired published on Tuesday, Wilson revealed that he’s willing to be a literal "sacrifice" for his cause. Actually, he was planning to be if (or as he thought at the time, when) Hillary Clinton had taken the White House in 2016 and enacted the crackdown on the Second Amendment she promised.
If Hillary had won, Wilson told Wired that "he was ready to launch his Defcad repository, regardless of the outcome of his lawsuit, and then defend it in an armed standoff."
"I’d call a militia out to defend the server, Bundy-style," said Wilson, referencing the Bundy family cattle ranches who took on the feds in 2014. "Our only option was to build an infrastructure where we had one final suicidal mission, where we dumped everything into the internet."
One thing is clear, the Second Amendment and the global right to self-defense is more enshrined today than it was mere months ago because of Wilson’s radical, and perhaps irrational, dedication.