This week, the so-called Wiki Weapon Project, an initiative that aims to design and build the world’s first entirely 3D-printable handgun, met its goal of raising $20,000 from Internet donors, according to the group’s spokesperson, University of Texas law student Cody Wilson. That’s about ten times the amount the project had managed to raise through the crowdsourced fundraising site Indiegogo when the donation platform summarily booted the printable gun project from its website last month and refunded the group’s pool of contributions to donors.
Wilson says he sees the fact that more contributors came through for the project despite Indiegogo’s rejection as a sign of the wide appeal of his goal: allowing anyone to create a firearm at home with cheap, easily available 3D-printing tools. “They wanted to get this done,” he says. “I think it shows they really believe in a future where the gun is inalienable…a kind of faith in American individualism, the sovereignty of the individual.”
The Wiki Weapon Project, hosted by a group that calls itself Defense Distributed, set out in July with the goal of raising enough money to hold a design competition among 3D-printable software models for a working gun capable of firing at least a single .22 caliber bullet that can be printed on a relatively cheap RepRap 3D printer.
“We want to show this principle: That a handgun is printable,” Wilson told me last month. “You don’t need to be able to put 200 rounds through it…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.”
If the notion of anyone being able to create a lethal weapon in their own home scares you–particularly after the recent string of gun tragedies in places like Colorado, New Jersey, and New York–you’re not alone. About a month after the Wiki Weapon project’s launch, Indiegogo sent Defense Distributed an email saying its funds had been frozen due to “unusual account activity,” and followed up with an explanation that it had violated Indiegogo’s terms of service, which don’t allow the sale of “ammunition, firearms, or certain firearm parts or accessories.”
Wilson argues that he had never intended to sell anything. Quite the opposite: He wants to make firearms a practically free commodity for anyone with a 3D printer. “I was disappointed with their glib reading of the terms,” he says. “On a literal level of reading these terms, we’re not exchanging firearms. Just information, speech.”
Wilson moved the fundraiser to Defense Distributed’s own site, and quickly raised several times the sum it had previously. After the group had raised $10,000, an anonymous donor agreed to match all further contributions towards the $20,000 goal originally posted on Indiegogo. (Although the site currently lists its donations at $15,240, that matching pledge puts it over its initial target, Wilson says.)
With its current pot, Wilson says the group will be able to rent a UPrint SE Plus printer, buy a Lenovo workstation for software modeling as well as the RepRap 3D printer it hopes to adapt its model to work for, and still have plenty of funds to offer between $3,000 and $5,000 in its design competition.
Wilson describes the group’s funders as including “gunsmiths, a lot of tea party patriots, enthusiastic engineers, retired businessmen, fathers, and engineering students.”
Comments on the group’s fundraising page are mostly positive, though one critic writes,”You should be ashamed of yourself,” and another calls the project “misguided.” One supporter, on the other hand, says he or she “chastised Indiegogo for their duplicitous hypocrisy! Freedom is never free. It has been paid for by the ultimate sacrifice of great military men and women who have given their lives to defend our right of gun ownership for self protection.”