‘Printable Gun’ Project Has Some PR Problems

Have you heard about the new 3D printing craze? We may be overstating its popularity a bit, but this mini-industry has the potential to blow up—who doesn’t love the idea of creating a precise replica of an ancient museum piece with a scanner?

Of course, as soon as the concept started growing, somebody’s mind turned to weapons.

The most…colorful of these ideas is almost certainly printablegun.com. The site is run by a “collective” called Defense Distributed, whose goal seems to be allowing every person in the world to arm him or herself with the greatest possible ease.

The group’s  founder and  spokesman recently managed to reach his fundraising goal of $20,000 despite some clear legal (and ethical) challenges, but now he’s facing a more immediate problem: Stratasys, the company that makes the 3D printers he planned to use to create his digital arsenal, has revoked his lease. Think Stratasys might be trying to avoid some all-but-certain future lawsuits?

Some doubt whether the gun could actually work, and we’re not clear on the specifics, but when asked about functionality, the spokesman said, “It only has to fire once. But even if the design is a little unworkable, it doesn’t matter, as long as it has that guarantee of lethality.”

So he literally wants to make it easier for people to kill other people. That quote is not at all disturbing, is it?

Turns out that the gunmaker does not have a federal license to manufacture firearms (surprise surprise), and his claims that he doesn’t need one because he doesn’t plan to sell the guns strike us as disingenuous given the fact that, in the “Wiki Weapon” video, he lists one of his goals as transcending “regulations for certain objects”. In other words, he wants to make guns free—and bypass any legal obstacles to owning them by giving everyone with access to a 3D printer the power to create one in his or her own home.

We are fascinated by the fact that the people behind Defense Distributed managed to raise a good bit of money in order to support an idea whose legal status is…questionable. The video is worth a look:

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.